Sleep Anatomy and what happens when we Sleep?
I am a Polysonmographist and have Study Sleep for about eights years. I was trained at the Stanford University School of Sleep Medicine and practiced this discipline under the Medical Direction of a Neurologist. We were looking at brain wave activity and patterns for Disease conditions while our patients slept. In truth these were the most interesting years in my twenty years of Medical Practice. Since the Doctor I worked with was a Neurologist our sleep lab which I was the Clinical Coordinator mostly saw Neurological Patients. Clinical Coordinator is just a fancy name for the lab is your responsibility buddy, so everything had better work or your fired. Before I was trained in Sleep Medicine I was a practicing Respiratory Therapist with training in EEGs, EKGs Cardiac Stress Testing, Pulmonary Functions, Arterial Blood Gas Studies and Retrieval, Ventilator Support in Pediatrics and Neonatal and Adults. Plus standard floor care for Respiratory Conditions like Asthma, COPD, and TB. Along with anything else they could think of to make a buck. Plus, took call for the Emergency Room and Surgery. Yep, pretty much a one man show. With all this training I loved working in small Hospitals in rural settings. So when there was a problem I was called. So as you can Imagine, I didn’t get much sleep. For some reason people in rural areas never go to the Hospital during the day. They always came in the middle of the night after my 10 hr shift. To this day, I still can’t figure this out. Maybe you can leave a comment with the explanation. I am just grateful that time has passed. Enough about me let’s get to sleep. I mean lets talk about what happens when we sleep. Oh, by the way I am not going to get into a deep philosophical or metaphysical discussion here. I have done that already in The Three attentions of Human Kind posts. So you can view those if that’s what you are looking for. This post is just about the Anatomy of just plain Sleep.
First we spend one-third of our lives asleep. On average eight hrs sleep for sixteen hrs of being awake. Of course this is average because in reality who now days gets a full eight hrs of uninterrupted sleep? During sleep we go through various stages and types of sleep each with their own brain wave activity. Which for me was the fascinating. These different stages cycle through as we sleep and we go through all of them in about ninety minutes called a Sleep Cycle. We monitor EKG, EEG, EMG, which is Muscle Activity, O2 Saturation, Eye Movement, Breathing and Air flow and sometimes the pleasure seeker Missile on Men. For Erectile Dysfunction. That’s right ladies it’s a natural function of sleep that men wake up with the pleasure-seeking missile ready for launch. We are just looking for the target and waiting for the order to fire. Just wanted to clear things up for the guys because we can’t help it and we are always being called perverts. We just figure it’s ready to go so why not take advantage of it. Hey, you try putting your pants on with that thing sticking a foot out in front of you. Quit laughing!
We monitor these parameters with little gold electrodes placed on the skin in predetermined areas to capture the activities we are monitoring. Along with different types of electrodes for O2 Sat. and Air flow and breathing. Once all hooked up, off to sleep you go with all this stuff hanging all over you. And in a strange bed on top of all that. Good Luck! Of course that’s part of the test. If you can go to sleep with all this stuff hanging all over you, you have a Sleep Condition. Isn’t modern medicine wonderful and very scientific? You bet!
This is all recorded on paper and each piece of paper was rolled through our recorder at one minute intervals. The one minute was broken up on the paper with a graph into five second intervals and even smaller but you get the idea. This paper was a thousand sheets long or minutes long I should say, so one night study was really long and very heavy. Of course we use computers now because we had to cut down all the trees. Just to do these sleep studies. Sorry!
Stage One in the Sleep Anatomy Cycle:
This usually starts with rolling eye movements and relatively low voltage, mixed frequency EEG activity around the 2-7 CPS (Cycles Per Second) range. These faster frequencies have a voltage of about, (50-75uV) uV means micro Volt which means really tiny in medical lingo. Along with the stage one frequency there is a fast over laying frequency call alpha. The alpha wave only appear when the eyes are closed. Open the eyes no alpha close the eyes alpha wave, weird huh! Hey, the Matrix was right we are Copper Tops. Stage one sleep usually lasts about 1-7 minutes. If I were to come into the room during stage one sleep, and ask if you were asleep yet? Besides yelling at me you would probably say NO and to GET THE HELL OUT OF MY ROOM. And then we start to transition into stage two sleep. This is where it starts to get interesting. Remember we are monitoring all these different parameters and changes start to happen as we transition and very quickly.
Stage Two in the Sleep Anatomy Cycle:
The rolling eye movements have stop and the eyes are pretty static at this time with little or no movements what so ever. The muscles that we are measuring have started to relax and thus the snoring starts. In stage two Sleep we are actually asleep. Smell turns off. Hearing turns off. Taste turns off. Sight turns off. The blackness of sleep starts to take over. The brain or EEG activity begins to change frequency and voltage during Stage two sleep and does some interesting things. Stage Two sleep is defined by the presence of what we call Spindles and/or K complexes which are very noticeable on the EEG. Spindles are very fast short amplitude waves that look very similar to (wwwwww) and the K complexes look like and EKG spike or just like a K. Hence the name. These can be transient events but with people on drugs they are much more prominent and a tell tail sign. The Normal EEG starts to slow down and widen out a bit from Stage One brain waves and then these Spindles and K complexes start to appear. These can actually be heard on the recording device because of the pen movement. We are now in Stage Two Sleep and can remain in Stage Two Sleep for most of the Sleep Cycle unless disturbed or movement arousal accrues. Not the kind of arousal we talked about earlier, you know like turning over or moving to spoon your partner. That kind of movement. We’ll get to that other arousal part later. Slowly and for some unknown reason, we start to transition into Stage Three Sleep or what we call delta sleep. This where all the good stuff happens.
Stage Three in the Sleep Anatomy Cycle:
During Stage Three Sleep the eyes are static like in Stage Two. But what’s weird is that in a lot of people I studied. Their snoring would stop during Stage Three Sleep even though they were in the same position as they were in Stage Two Sleep and snoring. The muscle Activity is even more reduced measure by the EMG. Which would lead us to believe that snoring would increase. Go figure! What’s really bizarre is the brain wave activity. The Amplitude or Voltage of these waves is almost doubled or tripled the size of activity during Stage Two Sleep. Above 75uV and higher with a frequency of 2-3 cycles per second. These actually look like long waves and we now know that during this stage all the growth and repair hormones are released to repair the body. This is awesome. I told you the good stuff happens during this Delta Cycle. This Stage usually last about 10-20 minutes and transitions into Stage Four Sleep.
Stage Four in the Sleep Anatomy Cycle:
Stage Four Sleep is just more of Stage Three Sleep but the Delta Cycles take up more of the time recorded on the paper and the tracing starts to look like long big waves for minutes on end. If I went into the room and woke you up during this Delta Sleep, you would awake up disoriented not knowing whether is was day or night where you were and what the hell am I doing in your room again. It might even take a few moments for you to get your bearings, so to speak. I believe this has happened to us all. Like when the phone rings in the middle of the night. Jerk! Wrong number. Delta sleep is the blackest sleep we experience. From Delta we transition into a new and different kind of sleep and the one the ladies have been waiting to hear about. Rem Sleep.
Rem Sleep in the Sleep Anatomy Cycle:
Rem Sleep we have all heard about and supposedly that’s were we dream. This is true but I also know we dream during Stage Two Sleep. It just doesn’t meet the criteria with the rapid eye movements that define Rem Sleep. What’s interesting During Rem or just before we go into Rem Sleep our body is disconnected from our mind. Meaning our muscles are paralyzed. Switched off just like a light switch. One moment muscle activity is there the next there nothing. Bizarre! No muscle EMG at all basically a straight line on the graft paper. I would always look on the tracings for what I called the Rem trigger to see if I could find a particular brain wave pattern to this trigger. They say this happens so we don’t physically act out our Dreams. I think it’s because we aren’t in our bodies but I promised I wouldn’t go there in this blog. What I also found interesting is that the brain waves looks as if we are awake. Some people I studied their brain waves looked like they were going through the Sleeps Cycles Stages very fast showing all the wave forms of the other Stages but at a very low voltage or amplitude. Rem Sleep is so close to being awake that if it wasn’t for the EMG we would think the person was awake. If we awake up from REM Sleep we feel refreshed and alert. Ready to kick some butt so I stayed out of the room during those times. But it was interesting to note at during Rem the men would pitch tents in their beds during this Cycle and this is how we could tell if they had Erectile Dysfunction, of course the electrode would help, or just hated doing the nasty with their wives. Now we have Viagra so now we have no excuses.
Hence, the Sleep Cycle Starts all over again for the next eight hours or so. Until it’s time to get our lazy butts out of bed. A couple of points I would like to make, that early in the night we have Less Rem Sleep and more of the Delta healing Sleep and as the night progresses. We have more Rem sleep and less Delta Sleep. If you need to do some healing go to bed early and quit watching the crappy 10:00 or 11:00 news. One it’s not the real news and two you end up with less healing sleep. But I guess it up to you to decide where you want healing or you just want to dream about healing.
One last point Experiments were done in WWII preventing prisoners of war Rem Sleep. Those prisoner Died because they were not allowed to enter REM and dream. This just speaks very loudly to me about the importance of being able to leave our bodies and dream. Connecting with the Totality of ourselves. Most men just look forward to their Pleasure seeker Missile in the morning. Hey, to each their own I like to say! And Guys we can’t blame the girls anymore more for the bad driving and parking practices. Because their depth perception is a little off. For the longest time now we have been telling them that our little sidewinder missile is a ballistic missile. Or that the six-inch subway sandwich is really the foot long. So just shut up and get the car fixed.
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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any kind. I don’t imply or condone the breaking of any laws. Or am I telling anybody to do anything regarding themselves. Nor, am I a terrorist. We are all big boys and girls and can make up our own minds, if you Clowns would just take the fluoride out of the water supplies.