Home Tools and Applications Health and Wellness Pathways to Sleep: Invitation to the World of Sleep Coaching

Pathways to Sleep: Invitation to the World of Sleep Coaching

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Usually, a remarkable thing happens after several hours. We slide (or leap) up to a unique stage that is called REM sleep. This label is attached because it is during this stage that there are rapid eye movements (REMs). These eye movements rarely occur during the other sleep stages—that is why these other stages are given an additional label: NREM (non-REM).  It is also during the REM stage that dreams often occur.  After this first (often short) REM stage, we will slip back down to stage four – or more likely stage three. This third stage, often called gamma sleep, is likely to last for a longer period than the previous delta sleep and is a bit more often found among older adults like myself. We don’t know much about gamma sleep – it is often identified as the “least interesting” sleep stage. But we do know that this stage is just as important as the three more “glamorous” stages. Gamma sleep typically manifests brain waves that are shorter and with lower spikes than delta sleep.

After an hour or two we once again shift to REM sleep and experience more dreams – which are often more colorful and somewhat longer. Typically, people do not recall dreams occurring during the middle of the night when they awake in the morning. They only recall these dreams from the middle of the night if the dream has awakened them (for example, a dream that is filled with anxiety) and the dreamer writes something down about the dream. Usually, the dream is not recalled in the morning even if it wakes us up. All we remember is that something disturbing, eventful or (sometimes) joyful occurred during the middle of the night.

Now we are entering the second half of our sleep night. It is common for us to slip back down to NREM sleep after we have been in bed for 3 or 4 hours. At this point, we are most likely to enter Stage Two (beta sleep), which is typified by shorter and even less-extreme peaks in EEG patterns. We also find increases in the Stage One sleep which generates something called “sleep spindles” (bursts in electronic activity). This alpha state is often compared to the state of cortical activity found among people who meditate or engage in other forms of mindfulness.

It is during the last hours of sleep (when both the first and second stages are dominant) that we find the greatest amount of REM sleep. This has been the “pot of gold” for dream researchers. These three stages (One, Two and REM) tend to interweave and many dreams of considerable length and colorful detail are produced. These later night dreams are often the ones we remember when we awake in the morning.

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