Sweet Dreams: The Importance of Sleep and Learning about It
January 26, 2023
Sleep is a necessity for everyone, and the lack of it can bring severe consequences. That is why it is important to be knowledgeable about getting the right amount of sleep, the different sleep cycles, and how to get a better night’s sleep. It is also said that our dreams can be filled with many hidden messages about our life and that analyzing them can help us understand how we might be feeling or what changes we need to make in our lives. With the mysteries and interesting facts tied to sleep, here you can learn more about this, from what your dreams mean to the state of sleep paralysis.
Here’s to Restful Sleep
Compromising sleep is quite the norm, but it’s often taken for granted. “Goodnight” is one of the most universal phrases that we tell our loved ones, but considering how important sleep is, it’s no surprise. Sadly, ¼ of teens suffer from insomnia and with 73% of high schoolers not getting healthy enough amounts of sleep, it’s a topic that needs to be heard. Putting time towards sleep is hard, and with bigger priorities, sleep can easily be swept under the rug. The consequences of sleep deprivation are so gradual that it is difficult to even notice what’s really going on behind the scenes. Symptoms of sleep deprivation include delayed thinking, reduced attention span, worsened memory, lack of energy, and mood changes. Isabella Guiterez (12) noted that “a lot of people go through feelings of stress and anxiety but a quick fix could be as simple as a good night’s rest. It’s a noticeable difference”
A lot of people go through feelings of stress and anxiety but a quick fix could be as simple as a good night’s rest. It’s a noticeable difference.” — Isabella Gutierrez
A lot of people go through feelings of stress and anxiety but a quick fix could be as simple as a good night’s rest. It’s a noticeable difference.”
— Isabella Gutierrez
Teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep while adults need 7-9 hours. Seven hours of sleep has always been questionable, so slipping 6 hours of sleep may be alright. With that being said, if it becomes too regular it leads to chronic sleep deprivation. Anything lower than 6 hours is practically useless unless it’s a morning nap. Sleep is split up into stages of REM. REM is defined as “a kind of sleep that occurs at intervals during the night and is characterized by rapid eye movements, more dreaming and bodily movement, and faster pulse and breathing” (NCBI Bookshelf). Stage 1 is when we start dozing off, which normally lasts one to five minutes depending on the person. Stage 2 is when our bodies settle down while our brains create a new wave pattern. The brain slows except for short bursts of activity that keep us from waking up. This stage lasts 10-25 minutes. Stage 3 is called deep sleep, it’s a more serious stage from waking up than the last. This stage is most important as it helps us recover and grow. This stage lasts 20-40 minutes. The last cycle is REM which is most important for cognitive functions such as memory, insightful thinking, and creativity. Dreams are also more common in this stage. This stage lasts around 90 minutes. We go through 4 of these 4 staged cycles. As you continue sleeping these cycles get shorter. On average you’ll need 4-6 cycles a night.
With REM in mind, to wake up feeling refreshed it’s best to wake during your light stage of sleep. To do so use 90-minute multiples. For example, if you need to wake by 7 AM sleep by 10 PM (9 hours of sleep). If that’s too early, wait for the following 90 minutes to be asleep by 11:30 (7.5 hours of sleep) and so on (6 hours of sleep) depending on your circumstances. Make sure to take into account how long it takes to fall asleep. For example, if you’re aiming for 11:30 and it takes you 30 minutes to fall asleep be in bed by 11. It’s just as important to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule not only improves your quality of sleep, but it also builds your sleep drive making it easier to fall asleep. The key to falling asleep is simply relaxing. For those having a hard time falling asleep, there are a few tips you could follow including taking deep breaths, hot baths before bed, turning off the lights an hour before bed, white noise, or soft music.
Think of sleep like a dose of medicine you take a certain amount, each night, at the same time. Getting into the habit of a consistent 9 hours of sleep is one of the healthiest things you do for yourself, If not, 7.5 hours of consistent sleep has credit due as well. But all in all, nobody knows you better than you. Sleep isn’t a set of rules you should follow–as long as it’s for the most part consistent experiment with what works best for you.
What do Dreams Actually Mean
You know that feeling when you first wake up from an amazing dream, and your mind is still trying to figure out what just happened? At that moment, life seems so simple and precious as you are not conscious enough to be worrying about real life tasks. You almost feel like an infant child trying to grasp on to the short moment of euphoria before life hits you in the head like a train. And then there is the opposite scenario where you wake up in a pool of your own sweat and scream your lungs out for help. That… is not quite as pleasant, but you still wake up with the same amount of confusion as the first dream I mentioned.
For the most part, we have all experienced this phenomena as our brains are “active during dreams from the brainstem to the cortex” (sciencefocus.com). Charlotte Schultz (11), who has an incredibly vivid dreaming style, explains that “as an avid sleepwalker, my sleep is as lively as my wake. Often, I wake up and I’m typing on a blanket… for some reason. It’s very confusing but I love sleeping so it’s ok. I dream a lot and I can’t tell if it’s real or fake.” It’s very interesting how Charlotte seems to dream so much, yet others don’t dream at all. In fact, one of my friends mentioned that she lucid dreams almost every night, which is absolutely crazy to me. With that being said, what is the meaning of all of this? Why are some people so much more active? Does dreaming about specific things mean anything?
Back in middle school, I would always search up the meanings of specific dreams online and get very sketchy looking results telling me that I have a grave future or something. Even though part of me knew it was dumb, I still felt a strange comfort in these un-scientific answers. For example, I used to dream about elevators a lot, and those sites would tell me that this meant I needed more control in my life. I stupidly believed it for a while and I actually improved on my schoolwork. I stopped procrastinating as much and my grades improved. This obsession eventually faded away as I researched some more about dreams.
As an avid sleepwalker, my sleep is as lively as my wake. Often, I wake up and I’m typing on a blanket… for some reason. It’s very confusing but I love sleeping so it’s ok. I dream a lot and I can’t tell if it’s real or fake.”
— Charlotte Schulz
For one, we can look back at the ancient Greeks. Back then, people thought that dreams were “equal parts predictions of future events and visitations by the dead” (time.com). After that came the idea of psychology, which is the study of the human mind. To learn more about this, I asked the AP psychology teacher, Mr Walls (staff), to talk about the meaning of dreams. He says that “there is no consensus amongst psychologists as to why we dream. Originally, Freud believed that dreams were a form of wish fulfillment. Later researchers have alternate theories. Amongst those theories is the idea that it’s literally just the brain trying to make sense of random neural firings.” This idea basically claims that there is no definite meaning to your dreams. Just because you dream about dying doesn’t foreshadow anything. Just because you kissed your crush in your dream doesn’t mean they secretly like you back. We as humans are so complex, and we already have enough things to deal with during the day. Some of those thoughts linger or come back around in our dreams simply because we don’t have a moment of quietness in the day to sort them out.
No matter what you believe, dreams are fun to discuss. They don’t need to have a meaning to be a memorable experience, and we can even learn a thing or two from them. Although there will always be discourse surrounding this topic, there is no denying that dreams are powerful and can set out mood for the day very easily. To make more sense of this, I recommend keeping a dream journal as it is not only fun but also exciting to share with your friends.
Sleep Paralysis- Your Walking Nightmare
Sleep paralysis is a condition where your body becomes paralyzed during “sleep”. Imagine yourself in bed and “awake,” but unable to move or even speak, in most instances, these occurrences include vivid haunting hallucinations–it’s quite literally a living nightmare.
But centuries before it wasn’t just a nightmare. Over the years there have been many superstitions over sleep paralysis, during the 1st century BC it was considered to be a visit by evil threatening to push the life out of you. Sleep paralysis usually lasts several seconds to several minutes. There are three factors relating to sleep paralysis. The first relates to frightening hallucinations; these hallucinations are vivid, even auditory. The second relates to a factor called “Incubus’ ‘ associated with trouble breathing, chest pain, and chest pressure. The third is related to a vestibule-motor experience where you experience an unusual out-of-body experience, a floating/flying sensation.
With all the chilling experiences from nightmares and sleep paralysis, it’d make sense to why there’s so much fear around the dark. But sleep paralysis begs the question: Could these occurrences be glitches in the simulation!? No. Sadly, your sleep paralysis probably isn’t real. Dreams of sleep paralysis have differing associations, usually playing off what the person fears most. In the 1600’s it was common to have sleep paralysis nightmares of demons, thieves, and big dogs- there’s a big contrast in what we find scary now.
When you’re going through the sleep stage of rapid eye movements (REM), dreaming is more likely. After you begin/end this stage regaining awareness becomes safer. Sleep paralysis is surprisingly quite a common universality with 8-50% (depending) chance of sleep paralysis occurring once at some point in life. Surprisingly, it occurs universally with quite normal sleepers- though, it has been linked to narcolepsy, stress, alcoholism, and sleep deprivation.
it isn’t always bad, but it’s definitely shaken me- I started questioning reality.” — Isabella Gutierez
it isn’t always bad, but it’s definitely shaken me- I started questioning reality.”
— Isabella Gutierez
The best way to understand sleep paralysis is to listen to first-hand accounts. An experience from a Reddit user described herself in bed while her sister came to visit- the sister had an odd aurora about her while her voice seemed distorted- it didn’t match… The user pointed out “you’re not my sister” and with that, another distorted version of the sister staggered behind the first with a chilling murmured response “yes I am”. Isabella Gutierez (12) has experienced sleep paralysis and noted that “it isn’t always bad but it’s definitely shaken me- I started questioning reality.”
Sleep paralysis could be really scary to experience. The best way to prevent sleep paralysis from happening is by maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, treating underlying conditions, and using de-stressing activities. With some being haunted by the thought of being stifled and suffocated, others may be curious about how sleep paralysis may occur. Even meeting a spirit, would it frighten you if you knew it couldn’t harm you? Either way, if you wake up paralyzed as a figure crawls toward you, breathe- you’re pulling a cruel prank on yourself.