Monday, June 13, 2005

How Sleep Works 

Sleep is one of those funny things about being a human being -- you just have to do it. Have you ever wondered why? And what about the crazy dreams, like the one where a bad person is chasing you and you can't run or yell. Does that make any sense?
If you have ever wondered about why people have to sleep or what causes dreams, then read on. In this article, you'll find out all about sleep and what it does for you.

Characteristics of Sleep
During sleep, the person occasionally rolls over or rearranges his or her body. This happens approximately once or twice an hour. This may be the body's way of making sure that no part of the body or skin has its circulation cut off for too long a period of time.

In addition to these outward signs, the heart slows down and the brain does some pretty funky things.

In other words, a sleeping person is unconscious to most things happening in the environment. The biggest difference between someone who is asleep and someone who has fainted or gone into a coma is the fact that a sleeping person can be aroused if the stimulus is strong enough. If you shake the person, yell loudly or flash a bright light, a sleeping person will wake up.

Why do we have such crazy, kooky dreams? Why do we dream at all for that matter? According to Joel Achenbach in his book Why Things Are:

The brain creates dreams through random electrical activity. Random is the key word here. About every 90 minutes the brain stem sends electrical impulses throughout the brain, in no particular order or fashion. The analytic portion of the brain -- the forebrain -- then desperately tries to make sense of these signals. It is like looking at a Rorschach test, a random splash of ink on paper. The only way of comprehending it is by viewing the dream (or the inkblot) metaphorically, symbolically, since there's no literal message.

This doesn't mean that dreams are meaningless or should be ignored. How our forebrains choose to "analyze" the random and discontinuous images may tell us something about ourselves, just as what we see in an inkblot can be revelatory. And perhaps there is a purpose to the craziness: Our minds may be working on deep-seated problems through these circuitous and less threatening metaphorical dreams.
Dreaming occurs in the fifth stage of sleep.

Here are some other things you may have noticed about your dreams:
-Dreams tell a story. They are like a TV show, with scenes, characters and props.
-Dreams incorporate things that have happened to you recently. They can also incorporate deep wishes and fears.
-Dreaming is important. In sleep experiments where a person is woken up every time he/she enters REM sleep, the person becomes increasingly impatient and uncomfortable over time.

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