Sleep isn't exactly a time when your body and brain shut off. While you rest, your brain stays busy, overseeing a wide variety of biological maintenance that keeps your body running in top condition, preparing you for the day ahead. Sleep is essential for a person’s health and well being, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Yet millions of people do not get enough sleep and many suffer from lack of sleep. For example, surveys conducted by the NSF (1999-2004) reveal that at least 40 million Americans suffer from over 70 different sleep disorders and 60 percent of adults report having sleep problems a few nights a week or more.
Dr. Rubin Naiman, author of Hush: A Book of Bedtime Contemplations, is a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine directed by Dr. Andrew Weil. As a sleep and dream expert, his focus is how sleeping and dreaming affects your health.
Four years ago, I interviewed Dr. Naiman on the most common causes for insomnia. Here, the discussion revolves around some of the more basic fundamentals of sleeping, and the importance of dreaming.
In basic terms, there are four stages of sleep but the two that are highly restorative are:
- Deep sleep, which you can think of as “true sleep”
- Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is dream sleep
According to Dr. Naiman, one of the best ways of understanding those two types of sleep is to think of them as different kinds of nourishment. “Sleep and dreams are a bit like water and …
Dreams are amazingly persistent. Miss a few from lack of sleep and the brain keeps score, forcing payback soon after eyelids close. “Nature's soft nurse,” as Shakespeare called sleep, isn't so soft after all.
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