Sleep is extremely important for a number of reasons. I will try to give you some of the most important parts geared towards this audience but I promise I won’t completely capture all its majesty. Before I was a bodybuilder, before I was a powerlifter, before I practiced medicine and before I was training for neurosurgery, I was in grad school trying to develop new drugs to enhance memory, sleep, and alter the mind. This is a neuroscience article and is more focused on the Mind in “Mind And Muscle” than it is the body….or is it? My father used to say that he hated sleeping, he felt he was missing something. My grandfather felt it was a waste of time that could be spent working. While as a teenager I liked to sleep so i didn’t have to deal with them. Sleep means something different to different people. Most people get too little sleep and others too much. The recommended amount of sleep is 8.2 hours with 9 hours spent in bed. Those who exercise need less sleep but for those of us who lift with intensity our bodies need more physical rest if not mental rest.
To be deep in the embrace of morpheus is some peoples greatest desire and others most dreaded fear. Many are plagued with nightmares; symbolic hallucinations of the stressors of their lives. Others have glorious dreams of the future and lost loves, places one is destined to visit and objects one may desire fills the subconscious mind. Some believe that if you die in your dreams you die in real life, your soul is eviscerated by your inner demons. Others see prognostic portents, clairvoyant visions in these dreams… or at least believe they do.
In India the Brahmin women have a red dot on their foreheads. This is to represent the third eye. This is supposed to grant spiritual vision and wisdom beyond that one such as I can reach. An interesting detail is that the pineal gland is called the third eye!
Melatonin is released from the pineal gland and that induces sleep. This release is triggered by a lack of light entering our two normal eyes. With the profound dreams induced by melatonin release, and many cultures belief that dreams give us an opportunity to access spiritual and psychic information we don’t normally have access to, is it any wonder that the gland that grants us these dreams is tied to this mystic third eye?
Dreaming occurs in the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) phase of sleep, or stage V. In this state our eyes twitch about at the same rate of 40 movements per second that they do when we are actually seeing things when we are awake. An interesting detail is that despite our eye muscles being fully active, our other muscles are paralyzed! Additionally the hippocampus, the part of our brain that encodes experiences into memory is extra active…but its working backward. So instead of our eyes gathering data and our hippocampal encoding this information into memories and storing those memories in the parietal lobe, it is taking memories from the parietal lobe and tricking our subconscious into believing we are experiencing them in real time! Since it is running backwards we don’t remember our dreams…or at least we arent supposed to. If the dream is horrific enough we snap awake in a cold sweat and we have the last details of our dreams active in our working memory for about 4 minutes. After that we can’t remember what we dreamed about just the emotions we felt upon waking.
What Are The Point Of These Dreams?
Dreams help to force your daily stressful events into solidified skills. There are two forms of memory. One form is declarative memory, which i’m using to write this information down. The other is physical memory which I’m using to type this out without having to think about typing. REM encodes these physical memory skills into place. The deeper you dream the faster you learn new skills and how to deal with the issues in your life, similar to how Bill Murray learned how to not be such a jerk in Ground Hog Day by having to repeat the same day over and over and over again.
REM occurs more after the 4 hour mark and allot more after the 6 hour mark of sleeping. So by shortchanging yourself on sleep you stop yourself from maximizing your learning. In medical school many people would take Valium to sleep because they were on Adderall and Ritalin all day. The problem with this is that Valium, like all Benzodiazepines, stops you from forming new memories (it gives you anterograde amnesia). Thats why if someone takes Ambien they might cheat on their diet or their spouse and not remember the next day, it lowers inhibitions like alcohol and makes you “blackout” not forming new memories.
Sleepwalking is when your body isn’t paralyzed while you’re dreaming, your body is acting as if you are in the situation you’re dreaming about. As you can imagine you can get hurt or hurt others while you’re dreaming so its a nifty evolutionary event that those of our ancestors that were paralyzed while dreaming lived to reproduce more frequently than those who did not. Now most people are descendants of those non-sleepwalkers, and subsequently few people sleep walk.
In the next chapter of Sleep: An Incomprehensive Guide I will cover metabolism during sleep!
If your interested in sleeping deeper, aging slower, burning fat while you sleep, and having more intense dreams then try Ghenerate!