Sleep has two factors that regulate it. They are the sleep/wake homeostasis and the circadian biological clock. The circadian rhythm affects sleep in different ways. The rhythm goes up and down at different times of the day depending on the habitual waking up moment of a person. Hence, when a person is experiencing sleepiness, the sleep drive has gone up as a result of the circadian rhythm. The rhythm also enables a person to become more alert during certain times of the day. This is not affected by the number of hours one has been asleep or awake. It goes against the sleep/wake process.
Researchers have managed to learn plenty of things about sleep. One of them is that sleep is fundamental for emotional intelligence of a person. When a person has a sufficient sleep, he or she is more likely to react better to situations that face him/her. It enables one to read the emotions of other more accurately. Researchers have shown that meditation, which is another type of altered state of consciousness, can help induce sleep. Additionally, it is possible to reset or change the circadian clock of the brain. Hence, it is possible to shift the circadian rhythms of the minds. This can be used to help to treat sleep disorders and sleep problems associated with shift work.
Sleep is a mechanism through which the body re-energizes the cells of the body, remove waste products from the brain, and also encourage learning and memory. The brain can generate two types of sleep. They include the deep sleep or the slow-wave sleep, and the rapid eye movement which is known as dreaming sleep. The deep sleep is the most common sleep. Some of the characteristics of this sleep include big, slow brain waves, deep breathing, and relaxed muscles. This kind of sleep helps the body in rejuvenating after it gets tired.
However, it is important to note that the body does not go offline or switch off completely when we are asleep. What happens is that the brain sleeps in stages that are orchestrated by specific events. Two types of cells can prompt the slow-wave sleep. They are the ventrolateral preoptic nucleus and the parafacial zone. Once the slow-wave sleep finishes, the dreaming sleep begins. In this case, the muscles paralyze while the brain is highly alert. The groups of cells that cause dreaming sleep are the subcoeruleus nucleus.
Therefore, sleep is the most common type of altered state of consciousness. There are plenty of things known about sleep, but the occurrence and purpose of some categories of sleep like the dreaming sleep are not known.
Boly, M., Phillips, C., Tshibanda, L., Vanhaudenhuyse, A., Schabus, M., DangVu, T. T., ... & Laureys, S. (2008). Intrinsic brain activity in altered states of consciousness. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1129(1), 119-129.
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