What Kind of Sleep Are You Getting?

This past Tuesday, we were delighted to hear from Steven Arnett, a Polysomnographic Technologist from the Sleep Disorders Center at North Florida Regional Medical Center. Steven spoke at The Village as part of NFRMC’s Healthy Aging program. We found his talk so interesting; we decided to share some of what he taught us with you.

What is Sleep?

We sleep for one third of our lives. How long we sleep each night changes as we age, so it’s important to know more about how you sleep. Sleep architecture describes the four stages of sleep and the cyclical pattern that it takes. The main two types of sleep are REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement). REM is the lightest form of sleep and it’s when we are closest to waking up yet it is when our brains do the majority of their daily information processing. NREM makes up the majority of the sleep that we get and typically is responsible for the repair of our tissues.

An EEG (electroencephalogram), when paired with other physiological measurements, can show us what stage of sleep we are in by mapping our brains electrical activity. Delta is the deepest stage of sleep and is most common for young children. We can get more delta sleep by adding more physical exertion to our day. As Steven says,
“Want to get a good night’s sleep? Put in a hard
day’s work.”

Dreams, Night Terrors and Nightmares

Dreams are a way for our brain to make sense of the world. Dreams are present in all stages of sleep, but are even more colorful and vivid in REM sleep. Each of us has a defense mechanism that quickly wakes us up if we are threatened. Night terrors occur when this defense mechanism misfires. Children are more likely to have night terrors, but adults who don’t get enough sleep can also have them. Night Terrors occur in the beginning of our sleep, and we normally will not remember them in the morning. Nightmares are different from night terrors, however. A nightmare occurs during the last third of our sleep and during REM sleep; we will unfortunately remember them in the morning.

Eating Before Bed

It’s a common myth that eating before bed can lead to weight gain. We are not advised to eat unhealthy or heavy meals before bed, including those containing a lot of oils or dairy, because they may upset our sleep. The fact of the matter is though, eating before bed doesn’t cause us to gain any more weight than if we were to eat the same meal earlier in the day.

How Much Sleep Should We Get?

Seven and a half hours is the typical amount of sleep that an average adult should get each night. The amount of sleep we should have each night varies by age though. For example, children require more sleep and should receive an average of 10-12 hours of sleep a night.

Do You Use A Smartphone Before Bed?

It is a common habit to use a smartphone, or similar device, in bed before going to sleep. We’ve learned that this is actually a very bad habit that can keep you awake for 30-45 mins longer. The type of light that wakes us up the most is natural light. The blue light waves tell our body that it is daytime and therefore time to wake up and start a new day. The same blue light waves are used in smartphone, television and computer screens to attract our attention. So the next time you want to check Facebook before jumping into bed, expect to be awake for a while longer.

Sleep Disorders

The number one most common sleep disorder in the United States is excessive daytime sleepiness. This disorder occurs as a result of having too little sleep at night. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most dangerous sleep disorder, however. OSA is a neurological sleep disorder that causes pauses in breathing. Those with OSA wake up frequently during the night but not usually long enough to remember. Something you should remember is that not all who snore have OSA. Many people have OSA but you only need to treat it if it causes problems in your daily life. In many cases though these signs may go unnoticed or misdiagnosed as other issues. For example, weight gain, hypertension, irritability, and morning headaches are all signs that you may have OSA and it needs to be treated.

If you are concerned about the quality of sleep you are getting, talk with your doctor. If necessary, we encourage you to participate in a quick and easy sleep study. Sleep studies measure the quality of sleep you get during a one night stay at our sleep disorders facility. If you are interested in learning more about your quality of sleep, don’t hesitate to call the Sleep Disorders Center at (352) 333-5236.