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The Sandman Must Sometimes Be Coaxed:
Sleep and Dreams

By Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, B.Sc., M.D., Ph.D.

Article printed in the August 20, 2007 issue
Reprinted on page 17 in the December 14, 2011 issue in The Mississauga News
under the feature: Health & Beauty, Medicine Matters.
Portrait of Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, supplied 2005
Dr. Peter W. Kujtan

As infants, we spend about half our time engaged in sleep, and another third when we are older, but it is essential for survival. If you don't get enough sleep, you risk depression, fatigue and even heart problems.

We are not totally sure why it is so important, but it seems that all mammals require sleep. Doctors, pilots, police officers and other shift-workers know very well what happens if they try to go without sleep, when all body processes begin to slow down or get confused.

Sleep activation is an area of much concern. We know that a 24-hour rhythm is important, as is light. Most people adopt a particular body posture, in a specific place and need a pre-bed routine for optimal sleep. Our eyes close and our sense of awareness decreases. But our brain is quite active in its own way. In fact, it is the brain that most requires sleep.

Brain activity tends to alternate between two very different stages. NREM or "non-rapid eye movement" sleep is a slow and passive activity and decreased muscle tone. It is the first stage of sleep and can be further characterized into sub-types. The more tired you are, the longer NREM sleep onset you tend to experience. REM or "rapid eye movement" is the other major sleep stage. It follows NREM, and in addition to rapid eye movement, activation of muscle tone and genital engorgement occurs.

Despite this, it is a deeper stage and more difficult to awaken from. This is also the stage associated with increased brain activity and dreams. Dreams are thought to be a conscious experience that begin with hallucinations where there exists perception of objects without sensory input.

During dreaming, we deceive ourselves into believing that events are real. Most dream themes revolve around our fears, anxieties and sexuality. Dreaming serves a purpose in brain rejuvenation and development. Not everyone dreams in color either, and we tend to recall dreams more vividly if we are woken up immediately after the REM phase.

Many disorders are associated with sleep including: sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, snoring, and chronic insomnia. Sleep studies are done to investigate the cause.

Good sleep hygiene is vital. You should attempt to go to sleep at the same time every day. People traveling through time zones can most appreciate the importance of good sleep hygiene.

Teenagers are another case in point, since data now exist to support their late night habits. Adolescents tend to need up to 10 hours of sleep nightly, but tend to fall asleep fairly late and are most rested when they arise in the late morning. This seems to be a hard generalization in a society which secondary education system revolves around early awakening and learning.

At the other end, as we get older, our sleep requirements fall. Some 80-year-olds function perfectly well on 4 hours sleep. Short daytime naps are acceptable and should be taken within 8 hours of early awakening.

Difficulty falling asleep is perhaps the most common problem. Refraining from caffeine in the evening, avoiding intense exercise late in the evening, and attempting to forgo those mini-naps on the couch watching television helps. Decongestants and alcohol can prevent sleep activation. Generally, we tend to prescribe mild sedatives and good sleep hygiene when things just don't straighten themselves out. The sandman does not always visit every night, but if you continually wake up non-rested, it is worth looking into.


Related resources:

Free sleep Hypnosis video - Self Hypnosis to fall asleep fast!! YouTube video, 5:02 min. Published on Sep 29, 2014 by Trey Mimbs. "Online sleep hypnosis video. You will fall asleep in minutes even if you have insomnia."

Hypnosis: Sleep Deeply (Request). YouTube video, 21:12 min. Published on Feb 9, 2014 by UltraHypnosis. "This video is designed to help the viewer go to sleep and sleep faster and more deeply."

SPOKEN Sleep Talk Down: Meditation for healing, insomnia, relaxing sleep. YouTube video, 43:39 min. Published on Nov 24, 2014 by Sleep Ezy Tonight. "A gentle guided visualization to help you have a restful sleep. Ideal for insomnia and restless sleepers who wake up in the middle of the night." Spoken by Jason Stephenson.

Sleep Music Delta Waves: Relaxing Music to Help you Sleep, Deep Sleep, Inner Peace. YouTube video, 44:58 min. Published on Nov 16, 2012 by meditationrelaxclub. "Autogenic Training. Relaxing Sounds for Relaxation Meditation, Tai Chi and Reiki. Meditation Music Video, Meditation Video with Delta Waves to Help you Sleep."

FREE Can't Sleep-Insomnia Relief Hypnosis. YouTube video, 50:16 min. Published on Nov 14, 2011 by LiberationInMind. "If you can't sleep, or find it difficult to get to sleep, this insomnia relief hypnosis session can help. Just click play whenever you want to go to sleep. Hypnosis is not the same as sleep, but it can lead easily into sleep. And the aim is that you drift into sleep while you listen to this session." ~ Dr. Paul Ogilvie, LiberationInMind.

Hypnosis for Clearing Subconscious Negativity. YouTube video, 1 hr. 00:48 min. Published on Sep 24, 2014 by Michael Sealey. "This is a powerful guided self hypnosis trance experience designed to allow you to sweep away your own subconscious negativity and negative blocks. Clear out all of your subconscious or unconscious negative thoughts, old habits, and emotional baggage with your own positive mind control. Enjoy deep relaxation and improved focus ... This session uses principles of deep trance relaxation, visualization and elements of hypnotherapy to help you to overcome your own internal blocks which may be preventing you from living the happier, emotionally freer life you truly deserve."

2 Hours Sleep Hypnosis for Depression Anxiety Self Confidence Emotional Healing. YouTube video, 2 hr. 00:13 min. Published on Oct 16, 2012 by Jody Whiteley. "A good, solid, fully relaxed night's sleep can work wonders. I invite you to rest, relax, and listen to this audio while you fall asleep so you can start feeling better right away. May you fall asleep feeling warm, loved, and comfortable, enjoy a long, sound sleep, and awake tomorrow refreshed, energised, happy, relaxed, and ready to do what needs to get done."

3 HOURS Relaxing Music with Water Sounds Meditation. YouTube video, 3 hr. 00:08 min. Published on Jun 18, 2013 by TheHonestGuys. "3 hours of some of the most relaxing music around, with added spa water sounds. Ideal peaceful background music for working, resting, studying, meditation, pampering, spa, massage, yoga, zen, sleep, Pilates, or whatever else needs."

8 Hour Sleep Music For Insomnia: Deep Sleep Music, Sleeping Music, Help Insomnia. YouTube video, 7 hr. 57:56 min. Published on Aug 6, 2014 by Body Mind Zone. "The relaxing sounds are blended with the most effective sound waves to help you relax, sleep, de-stress, study, meditate, heal, and bring a sense of peace into your life."

How to Fall Asleep. Lengthy article with lots of suggestions on how one can fall asleep, from wikiHow.com. Some suggestions are repeated as they come from different sources.

Sleep and Dreams - Neurology from Biology Online. The Falling Sleep Process, Sleeping, Dreams Telling the Future? REM, Our Environment Outside Sleep, Sleep Troubles.

Tips on How to Fall Asleep Faster and Sleep Better. YouTube video, 2:39 min.

Sleep from Wikipedia.

Insomnia from Wikipedia.

Sleep Hygiene from Sleep Disorders Australia.

Getting the Sleep You Need. Fact Sheet 13 from Youth Beyond Blue.

Sleep and Dreams by Gokce Gokalp, California State University, Northridge (CSUN). Stages of Sleep, Jouvet's Model of Sleep, Why Do We Sleep? REM Sleep Deprivation, Three Theories on the Meaning of Dreams.

Symbols and Dreams by Richard J. Corelli, M.D.

How Much Sleep Do You Need? Deep Sleep, REM Sleep, Cycles, Stages, and Needs.

Understanding Dreams: Dreaming and REM Sleep by Mark Stibich, Ph.D., Longevity.About.com.

The Stages of Sleep by Mark Stibich, Ph.D., Longevity.About.com.


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