By Mercola: read full article here http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/ar...
According to Roger Ekirch, historian and author of the book At Day's Close: Night in Times Pastii, the historically recent change to this pattern could be the root of a condition called sleep maintenance insomnia, where people wake during the night and have trouble getting back to sleep. Sleep psychologist Gregg Jacobs agrees that we've strayed from our evolutionary pattern, and that waking up during the night is actually a normal part of human physiology.
"The idea that we must sleep in a consolidated block could be damaging, he says, if it makes people who wake up at night anxious, as this anxiety can itself prohibit sleeps and is likely to seep into waking life too," BBC News reportsiii.
"Russell Foster, a professor of circadian [body clock] neuroscience at Oxford, shares this point of view. "Many people wake up at night and panic," he says. "I tell them that what they are experiencing is a throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern." Jacobs suggests that the waking period between sleeps, when people were forced into periods of rest and relaxation, could have played an important part in the human capacity to regulate stress naturally."
According to Ekirch, those waking night time hours were oftentimes used for quiet contemplation and introspection, in addition to more active pastimes like making love. Many just don't take the time to contemplate their life and dreams anymore, which can increase anxiety, stress and depression. So, the next time you wake up in the middle of the night, instead of panicking or worrying about "not being asleep when you should," try to relax, and remember you may just be tapping into a very natural rhythm, and use that time for meditating on your dreams instead of giving in to worry.
Natural Stages of Sleep
According to sleep psychologist Gregg Jacobsiv from the featured BBC News article, you cycle through four stages of sleep every 60 to 100 minutes.
Stage 1: A drowsy, relaxed state between being awake and sleeping
Stage 2: Slightly deeper sleep state. Interestingly enough, here, you may still feel awake. So, you may be asleep and not "know" it
Stage 3: Deep sleep stage. Once in deep sleep, it's quite difficult to wake up, as there's so little physiological activity going on
Stage 4: After Deep Sleep, you briefly enter stage 2 again before entering REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is the dream state
In order to understand why you can't fall asleep or stay sleep, you need to understand that sleep is the outcome of an interaction between two classes of variables: sleepiness and "noise."
Sleepiness – Under normal conditions, your sleepiness should gradually increase throughout the day, peaking just before you go to bed at night. This is ideal, as you want your sleepiness to be high at the beginning of the night, leading you into Stage 1, as described above.
"Noise" – refers to any kind of stimulation that inhibits or disrupts sleep. If noise is conceptually greater than your level of sleepiness, you will not fall asleep. "Noise" occurs in three zones: the mind level, body level, and the environmental level.
According to Dr. Rubin Naiman—a clinical psychologist, author, teacher, and the leader in integrative medicine approaches to sleep and dreams—one of the most common symptoms of insomnia is a condition called "cognitive popcorn." This is when your mind produces uncontrollable thoughts that keep you awake, and it is one of the most common forms of mental "noise." Other forms of noise include physical noise such as pain, discomfort, indigestion, or residual caffeine from drinking coffee too late in the day, and "environmental noise," such as a snoring partner, music, lights, or a bedroom that's too warm.
In order to easily fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night, you want your sleepiness level to be high, and the noise level to be low. According to Dr. Naiman, more often than not, the reason why people can't fall asleep is NOT because of lack of sleepiness, but rather because of excessive noise. Therefore, the FIRST thing you need to ask yourself when you can't sleep is:
"Where/What is the noise?" (Is it mind/body/environmental?)
Typically, you will find a number of different factors contribute to the noise burden keeping you awake, so it's important to carefully evaluate your environment and inner/outer state to determine ALL the contributing factors. If you address one problem, but not the others, you still may not be able to fall asleep, or stay asleep throughout the night.
Next Discussion: DFJ »