What Happens When we Sleep and Dream?

Why do we dream?

Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of our lives”    Dr. William C. Dementdream

A lot of research has gone into the nature of sleep and dreams. In this article, I’ll talk about the results of some of that research. We’ll look at some of the benefits of good healthy sleep. And we’ll also address the question of why we dream.

During sleep, a number of things happen. For one, certain hormones are released that rejuvenate our bodies. Other changes take place that assist in cleansing toxins and help us process memory. There’s even a process that helps improve our mood.

To Dream or not to Dream

We mainly dream in REM sleep but can dream in other stages of sleep as well. However, dreams in REM sleep are usually more bizarre, emotional, and tend to last longer than non-REM dreams. Also, we become ‘paralyzed’ in REM sleep. This is so we don’t act out our dreams. Although, interestingly enough, we aren’t paralyzed while we dream in other stages. Additionally, women’s dreams are more focused on smell and taste; whereas men’s dreams are more sound and pain oriented.

And yes, blind people do dream. But, if they were either born blind or were blind before age 4-5, there aren’t any images in their dreams. However, those who became blind after that age do see images.

Also, we’re generally not aware that we’re dreaming when in fact, we are. However, there are times of lucid dreaming when we do become aware we’re dreaming. In lucid dreaming, we can actually manipulate our dream. In fact, some people can do this and get amazing results.

The Lucid Dream

For instance, I was talking to a guy awhile ago, and he was telling me about another guy who was able to manipulate his dreams. He was a skateboarder. He’d go into his dream and practice a skateboarding trick over and over. When he got up the next day, he’d go out and try that trick, and do it like he had actually been practicing it.

But is dream manipulation always a good thing? Or should I say, is there a reason we generally aren’t aware we’re dreaming and have no control over them? We know that dreaming is part of memory consolidation.  So then, should we just let the dream play out and do whatever it’s supposed to? Or can we gain something by manipulating it? Which makes me wonder, do we mess with, or alter memories in some way by manipulating our dream?

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of sleep and dreams.

Dream and Mood Regulation

In 1960, William C. Dement, MD, Ph.D., did an interesting study on REM sleep deprivation. Test subjects were awakened right as they entered REM sleep, thus depriving them of dreams. The result?

‘Dr. Dement observed increased tension, anxiety and irritability among his subjects along with difficulty concentrating, an increase in appetite with consequent weight gain, lack of motor coordination, feelings of emptiness and depersonalization and hallucinatory tendencies.’ https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/your-dreams/page/0/1

In addition to this, there’s strong evidence that shows dreaming increases our mood. That’s why you actually do feel better the next day. Although, if your mood is really low, it might take more than one night to get you out of it. Interestingly, if you go to sleep in a fairly good mood to begin with, you generally don’t wake up feeling better yet. (wouldn’t that be nice!)

Also, nightmares decrease with age. And coping skill increase with age. So it seems that there’s even a connection between nightmares and the ability to cope with life situations.

Interestingly, people who suffer from Depression have more REM sleep and less slow wave sleep. It looks like their minds are spending extra time trying to boost their mood. The downside to this is that they get less slow wave sleep. And again, that’s the stage where hormones are released that rejuvenate and refresh our bodies.

Therefore, it does appear that dreaming plays a roll in regulating our emotions.

Sleep and Memory Consolidation

For most of us, we have a tendency to be forgetful. In fact, we tend to forget things quite rapidly within the first couple hours after learning a new thing. However, if we fall asleep immediately after learning, we’re able to remember more of it. So then, ‘sleeping on it’ is a good thing.

Furthermore, I once read a report that showed how memory is processed while we sleep. In this study, the same exam was given to two groups of people with similar I.Q.’s. The one group studied, slept, and then took the exam. The other group slept, then studied and took the exam. Interestingly, the group that studied then slept scored higher than the group that slept, then studied.

Not only do we process memory in our sleep, we are also capable of solving problems while we dream. Additionally, studies have shown that with problem-solving, more complex problems were solved better after sleep. With simple problems, there was no significant difference between the sleep and the no-sleep group. Many discoveries and inventions have come to people in a dream.

But something else quite interesting also happens while you snooze. Check it out.

A Cleansing Sleep

Did you know that sleep flushes out your brain? Brain scans on mice have shown something quite intriguing. When these mice fell asleep, the cells in their brains moved apart! This, of course, created more space between them. The result was that fluid between the cells was able to flow faster while asleep.

What happens is this. Toxic substances build up in the fluid surrounding the cells in your brain. Specifically, research has found that clumps of a protein called Beta Amyloid build up in your brain. Eventually, this substance blocks nerve signal transmission, which leads to Alzheimer’s. This chemical can build up while we’re awake but flushes out as we sleep. So a good nights sleep can also reduce your chances of getting this disorder as well.

It’s like your brain has a valve that opens while you’re asleep, and closes while you’re awake. Which leads to the question of ‘why doesn’t it just stay open all the time? One theory is that it simply takes too much energy flush the brain while it’s also processing the world around it. Or maybe similar to trying to run a program on your computer while you’re rebooting it.

Conclusion

In this article, we’ve seen some of the benefits of good quality sleep. How it not only helps us process memory, and even make new discoveries. But it also helps clean our brains out so that we can stay more healthy.

And although sleep and dream research has answered many questions, it also created many more. Clearly, more research needs to be done. However, the future sounds exciting!

Till next time…Blessings.

 

 

 

These Medications Will Disturb Your Sleep

In my last article, I talked about insomnia and some of the diseases that Medicationscan cause this debilitating disorder. This time, I’ll address some of the medications prescribed for various diseases that can also disrupt your sleep. I won’t be providing any alternative forms of treatment here as the focus is on medicines that cause sleep disruptions.

But first, let’s briefly talk about sleep itself.

What causes us to Sleep?

How does sleep ‘work’?  What causes you to fall asleep? And what wakes causes you up?

One way to look at it is that you gain a sleep debt while awake. When you’re awake, you accumulate a sleep debt. As this debt rises, the need to sleep becomes stronger. Eventually the need to sleep becomes stronger than the need to stay awake. At that point, you fall asleep.

Then as you sleep, you ‘pay off’ this sleep debt. As this debt gets paid off, the need to sleep naturally becomes weaker. Finally, it gets to the point where the need to sleep becomes less than the need to stay awake; and you wake up.

What’s the Reason for Sleep?

Sleep isn’t just a time to ‘stop and rest’. A lot of things happen while you snooze. As a matter of fact, different stages of sleep provide both physical and mental benefits. For instance, memories are processed in REM sleep. While slow wave sleep produces certain hormones that aid in growth and restoration of your body. Our bodies are created to self-heal. And part of that healing process involves quality sleep.

So then, ideal sleep is necessary for your health and well being. Therefore, poor quality sleep isn’t good. Thus, if you have a disease that’s disrupting your sleep, and you’re taking medications that further disturb that sleep, you’re kinda fighting against the healing process.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the more common medications and how they disrupt your sleep pattern.

Allergies

Many medications for allergies cause drowsiness; however, there are some that don’t. Benadryl (diphenhydramine ) is a common over the counter medication that does cause drowsiness.

Anxiety

In addition to causing drowsiness, some of the medications prescribed for anxiety- also impair performance, such as driving. However, there isn’t solid evidence these impairments continue with long term use. Some of the more common medications are Xanax (alprazolam ), Klonopin ( clonazapam ), and Valium (diazapam ).

Depression

If you struggle with depression, you also have sleep disturbances. You’re most likely fighting sleep when you should be awake, and yet finding it hard to stay asleep. Additionally, the very medications you are prescribed can cause further sleep disruptions.

Additionally, drugs like Nardil ( phenelzine ), and Marplan ( isocarboxazid) can greatly reduce REM sleep. Keep in mind that REM sleep is where memory is processed; kind of ‘brought together’.

Epilepsy

Drowsiness is more common with the older antiepileptic medications; less so with the newer ones. Also, cognitive impairment is more common with Luminal (phenobarbital ) than with other medications.

Heart Medications

Some medications for your heart can cause tiredness and fatigue. Other side-effects can include vivid dreams, nightmares, depression, and mental confusion. In some studies, medications such as Inderal (propranolol), Lopressor (metoprolol), showed an increase in wake time.

Additionally, most medications prescribed for your heart decrease REM sleep.

Mental Illness

People with Schizophrenia usually suffer from insomnia and other sleep disturbances. While most medications prescribed for this disorder cause drowsiness. Although, the older drugs, such as Haldol ( haloperidal ), Mellaril (thioridiazine ), and Thorazine ( chlorpromazine ), are more sedating than the newer drugs.

Parkinson’s

Daytime sleepiness, along with trouble sleeping at night are some of the characteristics of this disorder. some of this is due to abnormal movements during sleep cause numerous awakenings.

The main drug used to treat Parkinson’s is Sinemet( levodopa/carbidopa ). Ironically, some of the more common side effects of this drug include unusual and uncontrollable body movements.

Pain medications

Pain is kind of a double edged sword. On the one hand, it disturbs sleep. On the other hand, lack of sleep can increase pain. And while pain medication can cause drowsiness, many of the diseases that cause pain also cause sleep problems.

Narcotics such as Vicodin and Morphine can cause you to breathe more slowly, which can lead to  central sleep apnea which can cause your oxygen levels to drop; sometimes to dangerous levels.

Conclusion

Some disorders cause sleep disturbances. However, sometimes the very medications you take for a disorder further complicate things by causing even more disruptions to your sleep. And because good quality sleep is essential to your health, this can be a bit of a problem.

Therefore some medications themselves become a double edged sword. Helping the disorder, while hindering the sleep you so desperately need. Hopefully, further research will solve this dilemma.

Till next time…Blessings.

 

 

How to Beat Those Insomnia Blues

In this article, we’ll take a look at insomnia. What it is and what causes it; as well as what it can cause. We’ll also explore some treatment options.Insomnia

You’ve had a sleep study, but they say you don’t have sleep apnea. And yet, you’re still not sleeping. Laying in bed, the thought keeps rolling over in your head “What’s wrong with me?”

What is Insomnia?

Simply put, insomnia is defined as difficulty falling asleep and remaining asleep. It also includes some form of impairment during the day. And even though it’s the most common sleep disorder, insomnia is also the most underdiagnosed, and undertreated. Actually, according to some statistics, approximately 10% of the general population suffers from chronic insomnia, while 30% do so occasionally.

Actually, according to some statistics, approximately 10% of the general population suffers from chronic insomnia, while 30% do so occasionally. Additionally, there are different degrees of insomnia, from mild to moderate to severe. It can also briefly appear from time to time, or come and stay awhile.

But just what causes insomnia? Let’s take a look.

Risk factors

The typical person with insomnia is an elderly white female. There’s also some evidence that it might run in your family.

Some other factors include:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Medications
  • Menopause
  • Restless Legs Syndrome

Although the #1 cause of insomnia is long term Stress.

However, the most common disorders associated with insomnia are anxiety and depression.

Furthermore, if you have insomnia, you’re more likely to be involved in a fatal car accident . You’re also more likely to miss work. And when you are working, you’ll tend to make more mistakes.

In addition to this, insomnia itself is a risk factor for other diseases. Which in itself can make it difficult to properly diagnose.

Let’s look more closely at that.

Diagnosis

Insomnia can be difficult to properly diagnose. This is because it’s hard to determine if it’s a symptom of another disorder or a disorder all by itself. It’s important to find out what caused what so that proper treatment can be made.

For instance, depression can cause insomnia. However, insomnia can also cause depression. But which came first? If insomnia caused the depression, then treating the depression won’t entirely solve the problem.

Another reason for its difficulty involves something known as sleep state misperception. In other words, you can be in a very light stage of sleep, and feel as though you were lying awake the whole time.

Also, there are beliefs about sleep. In reality, some people need more sleep, some need less. The average is around 8 hours. So, if you believe you need 8 hours, but really only need 7, you could lay awake for an hour wondering why you can’t sleep.

Moreover, a diagnosis is made based mainly on what the patient describes, and includes reports of:

  • Attention, concentration and/or memory problems
  • Daytime Sleepiness
  • Difficulty with social interaction
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Poor school performance
  • Tension headaches

Your Doctor will make a diagnosis based on your sleep patterns. Also the use of some sleep questionnaires. Such as something called an  Epworth Sleepiness Scale

A sleep study could also be ordered if the cause of your insomnia is unclear. Additionally, your Doctor might order some blood work, if (s)he suspects some other medical condition that might be the underlying cause. Such as thyroid disease or iron deficiency anemia.

Once a diagnosis has been made, it’s time to look at some treatment options. We’ll start with changing the way you think and act.

Self Perpetuating Insomnia

Insomnia can be started by something that causes you concern. but continue long after the initial problem is solved. Here’s how.

Some life event causes some concern. In fact, you lay awake in bed worrying about this. Your concern is now making it difficult to fall asleep. After awhile, the initial cause of worry is taken care of. However, you’ve now been in a pattern of not being able to sleep so long that you now have concerns about your inability to sleep.

So now your worry about not being able to fall asleep is causing difficulty falling asleep. And so the cycle continues, long after the initial event that caused it. To further complicate this, now your lack of sleep can lead to depression.

Next, we’ll take a look at some treatment options.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Insomnia responds better to behavioral changes then to the use of medicine. However, a combination of treatments can be even more effective. Let’s start with something called Cognitive Behavior Therapy or CBT. This basically involves changing the way you think and behave. There are different forms of CBT, depending on your specific needs. These include:

  • Biofeedback
  • Improve your sleep space- This includes not having a tv, clock, or other electronic devices in your sleep area.
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Relaxation training
  • Remaining passively awake-Simply try not to fall asleep It’s basically letting go of the worry that you can’t sleep. As mentioned earlier, it can sometimes be the worry of not being able to sleep that keeps you awake. Let go of that worry.
  • Sleep hygiene-Establishing good sleep habits
  • Sleep restriction-You builds up a ‘sleep debt’ while awake. When that ‘debt’ reaches a certain point, your brain tells you it’s time to go to sleep. However, any nap will ‘pay off’ some of that debt, leaving you more awake at bed time.

Also, keep in mind that body position is really important. For example, laying on your back is actually the best sleep position. This is because it properly aligns your spine and neck. As well as puts the least amount of strain on your body. Again, and I can’t stress this enough, there really should be no t.v. or other electronic devices in your bed room. And if noise is a factor, the use of a fan or other white noise machine can be helpful.

Next, we’ll take a look at some of the more common medications your Doctor might prescribe.

Medications

conventional

The 3 main medications are:

  • Allergies make it hard to breathe, which can be at least some of the cause of your insomnia. So if you have allergies, your Doctor might prescribe something like Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), or an over the counter med such as Doxylamine (Unisom).
  • Sedatives-Zolpidem (Ambien). Temazepam Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Antidepressants-Trazadone. Mirtazapine (Remeron)

Alternative

There are some herbal supplements that have shown positive results. They include Melatonin, Valerian Root, and Chamomile.

And while medicine just relieves your symptoms, Cognitive Behavior Therapy will actually get at the cause of your sleeplessness. However, it will take time and effort on your part to get results.

As you can see, there are many good treatment options available. Talk with your Doctor, as you probably would benefit most from using a combination of treatments together.

Conclusion

We’ve looked at insomnia, and discovered some of the reasons it can be hard to properly diagnose. If you suffer from insomnia, I hope this article helps you understand it a little better. Also, if you know anyone suffering from this debilitating disorder, please share this article with them.

Till next time…Blessings.

 

and

I’ve had a Sleep Study but I Still Can’t Sleep- Now What?

If you’ve had a sleep study, but still can’t sleep, this article will offer you Can't Sleephope. We’ll take a look at some of the reasons why you’re still not sleeping well. And we’ll also address some things you can do to possibly improve your sleep.

Unfortunately, for some people, having a sleep study and being started on CPAP doesn’t restore good quality sleep. There are many reasons why this is so, and usually, these things can be remedied. There’s also the issue of insomnia, which is actually different than sleep apnea. However, in this article, we’re focusing specifically on sleep not improving with CPAP.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some things.

You slept Better initially After Your Sleep Study, but now you Can’t Sleep

To begin with, think about things that have changed since your sleep study. How long ago was it? If it’s been a few years since your last sleep study, just the natural changes you go through as you age, such as weight gain, for instance, could make your sleep apnea worse.

Another thing to consider is the use of medications. Unfortunately, many medications can disturb your sleep and cause daytime sleepiness. So, if you were started on a new or different medication since your sleep study, talk to your Doctor about possible side effects.

In women, estrogen and progesterone help keep your airway open. However, after menopause, these hormones are gone, leading to an increase in sleep apnea.

Other physical disorders that can disturb your sleep, or cause a change in the way you breathe include:

  • Heart Disease
  • Certain lung diseases
  • Stroke
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Some stomach and intestinal disorders
  • Anxiety and/or other mood disorders

But what if you never did feel any better even right after your sleep study?

You Can’t Sleep any Better Immediately After your Sleep Study

Of all the reasons you can’t sleep, stress might be your biggest issue. Stress is quite common and can be the cause of more than just not sleeping well.

There could also be some, as of yet, undiagnosed underlying condition; such as Narcolepsy, for instance. Additionally, the use of alcohol and/or tobacco can cause sleep disruptions and drowsiness during the day as well.

Furthermore, did you tolerate your CPAP mask well during your sleep study, but now you’re struggling with it? It could be as simple as the wrong type of mask. Maybe they used a nasal mask on you during the study, and that particular night, you were able to breathe through your nose fine. Now, however, for some reason, you can’t breathe through your nose anymore. Perhaps CPAP is now drying your sinuses, causing mouth breathing.

Or maybe you just don’t have the mask fitted right and it’s leaking. This could cause frequent arousals. Also, if the leak is big enough, it would decrease the amount of pressure that actually reaches you. And that reduced pressure might no longer be enough to hold your airway open.

In fact, one of the more common problems people with nasal masks is mouth breathing. This can be a source of frequent waking. It can also cause less pressure to be delivered to you, thus making your CPAP less effective. Therefore, maybe you can’t sleep because of a mask and/or mouth breathing issue.

A mask issue can usually be remedied by properly adjusting your mask, or changing to a different one. But what about mouth breathing?

Causes of Mouth Breathing

We are naturally nose breathers. So for most of us, a nasal mask works quite well. However, there are a few things that can cause you to breathe through your mouth. Many people with nasal CPAP masks struggle with sinus congestion, dry nose, and throat.

Can you breathe through your nose while awake, but once you’re asleep your mouth pops open? The reason for that is usually because your airway is collapsing (see diagram).can't sleep This causes you to open your mouth in order to pull in more air.

In that case, CPAP, which holds your airway open, should restore nose breathing in your sleep. However, the cause of mouth breathing could now be due to sinus congestion, caused by the drying effect of CPAP. This can cause short term mouth breathing. Therefore, if you can’t sleep, and use a nasal mask, mouth breathing might now be some of the cause.

Also, a surgical procedure that removes excess tissue in the back of your mouth lessens snoring and reduces apneas. However, studies have found that people who have had these procedures might still need CPAP. And they are also more likely be mouth breathers because of the lack of tissue support.

The question is, is mouth breathing anything to worry about? And if not, why not just use a full face mask and be done with it. Well, let’s see what happens to you physically when you breathe with your mouth.

Health Effects of Mouth Breathing

When you breathe through your mouth, the air isn’t warmed and moisturized like it is with nasal breathing.  This causes dry mouth, which encourages bacteria growth, leading to cavities. Nasal breathing not only warms and moisturizes the air, it also acts as a filter, reducing dust and allergens.

Also, when you breathe through your nose, Nitric Oxide is produced in small quantities. This gas actually makes you absorb more oxygen, which is even more important while you’re sleeping. This is because your breathing becomes slower and shallower in your sleep.

Keep in mind that many people see their Dentist more than their Doctor. Therefore it’s usually the Dentist that notices mouth breathing issues. Especially important to consider is that mouth breathing in children can actually cause abnormal facial and dental development.

How to Reduce Mouth Breathing

Here are some things you can do to encourage nose breathing:

  • Use a chin strap-These can be fairly effective if you’re not dealing with sinus congestion. Although, even then, they don’t always guarantee you won’t breathe through your mouth at times.
  • Use a mouth guard
  • Elevate your head
  • Eliminate allergens
  • Use decongestants to clear your sinuses.
  • Excercise-Yoga and cardio workouts can improve your breathing
  • Try sleeping on your side instead of your back
  • Tape your mouth shut-I’m not kidding! Use surgical tape. However, this can be uncomfortable, especially at first.

Also, if you use a nasal CPAP mask, simply increasing humidification can help clear your sinuses, and therefore increase nasal breathing.

Conclusion

If you’ve had a sleep study, but you still can’t sleep, there are some things to look at as the cause. Most of these problems can be dealt with fairly easily. But be sure to consult your Doctor with any concerns you might have. You might just need a mask adjustment. But then again, another sleep study may be necessary.

Till next time…Blessings.

Are you Concerned About Your Sleep Quality?

If you have concerns about the quality of sleep you’re getting, or just looking for information, here are a few links to help you out.

Blogs

https://www.aastweb.org/blog

http://www.sleepworksinc.com/sleep-study-blog-2016.php

Forums

http://www.healthboards.com/boards/sleep-disorders/

https://patient.info/forums/discuss/browse/sleep-problems-2099

http://talk.sleeptember.org/

Informational

https://sleepfoundation.org/

https://www.somnosure.com/

Here’s some good information on home testing.http://www.sleepworksinc.com/sleep-study-home-sleep-testing.php

This site provides a link to find a sleep professional in your area https://sleepfoundation.org/

If you need a CPAP machine but can’t afford it, the American Sleep Apnea Association may be able to help you. https://www.sleepapnea.org/community/cpap-assistance-program/

Do you have, suspect you have Narcolepsy? Click on this link http://www.narcolepsylink.com/

This sleep center has sleep labs in hospitals throughout several states. Check them out. http://www.pdssleep.com/

Interactive Forms

The following link will bring you to an interactive ESS where you can test yourself http://www.sleepmed.com.au/epworth-calculator.html

This interactive questionnaire will determine the likelihood you have sleep apnea http://www.stopbang.ca/osa/screening.php

This isn’t an interactive link but you can print out a good rating scale for Restless Leg Syndrome http://sleephub.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/RLSratingscale.pdf

 

This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, and I might just add links from time to time as well.

If you have any links you’d like added please leave a link in the comments.

Thanks. Till next time…Blessings.