smason edit.jpg (23187 bytes)Look At It This Way
by Dr. Steve Mason    DrSBMason@aol.com

We make some of our greatest gains
When we see old things
In new ways
 

 

Pleasant Dreams 

Good Morning! It may be later in the day for you but for me I'm just coming back after eight hours of sleep. Why do I sleep? Why have I spend decades a full third of my life dead to the world? I don't know. But that's only because nobody knows. Scientists and scholars, philosophers and poets have contemplated the topic but only in the last half century have there been legitimate strides toward true understanding.

The only complaint as common as the common cold is insomnia, which is defined as an inability to fall asleep, stay asleep or both. When pollsters asked random samples of people if they had ever experienced insomnia, 95% said they had with 10% saying it's a chronic condition. There are a number of brain disorders that can cause sleeplessness but more often than not it's a symptom rather than a disease. The challenge for a doctor is to find the cause and treat it.

One common cause is Obstructive Sleep Apnea. This occurs when an individual falls asleep and the various tissues surrounding their airway relax and collapse. The result is a snore interrupted by a gasp that can be initiated by extra weight and/or excess alcohol. This can occur a dozen or more times a night without the individual being aware of it.

The problem is that sleeping is a vital part of living. Interrupt a person's sleep, especially during REM or dreaming stage, and the results over time will be catastrophic. All animals, along with fish and insects, need some sort of down time as part of their circadian rhythm. Unfortunately, lots of people don't know they aren't sleeping well and while many more may know it, they don't take their sleep debit seriously. The consequences, from dozing off while driving to suffering from a weakened immune system, can be - and often are - fatal.

One might think that simply resting would be enough but that's not the case. All-out sleep is necessary for essential physical and mental maintenance. Interrupt sleeping for as little as a night or two and metabolic problems will become apparent. Interrupt dreaming and the individual will start to dream while awake, experiencing psychotic episodes.

Look At It This Way

Just because the need for sleeping and dreaming are not yet understood should in no way diminish their importance to one's health. I would suggest learning more about researcher Dr. W. C, Dement and the work being done at sleep centers. Clearly the topic is way too involved to cover in a short column so let me relate two stories that may encourage you to look into that vital yet mysterious third of your life.

The first involves a man who stabbed his wife multiple times, drove to his in-laws' house and stabbed them, then returned home to drown his wife (who was still alive) in their swimming pool. His defense was sleep walking and while you may find it hard the believe, juries have found it, and similar cases, believable.

Now what about all those honest, seemingly sane individuals who have reported being visited by space aliens, taken aboard a UFO, examined and then returned to their beds? Look up hypnagogic/ hypnopompic hallucinations.

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