Monday, February 9, 2009

Question of the Week: Too Much Dreaming

OK so I'm a 23 year old male and i pretty much been a night owl like most of my friends we would hang out late into the night play video games or go to parties here and the and drink you know your average teens to early 20s lifestyle like i would go to sleep at all different times in the middle of the night and sleep without waking for like 7 8 hours now days when i go to sleep I wake up I would say maybe 2 to 3 hours into my sleep cause of some dream I'M having and there not scary sometimes they are but most of the time there not they just seem so real or vivid so then ill fall back asleep then in the mornings like ill wake up again from another dream but still be so tired ill keep falling in and out of sleep having dreams each time its so weird I think I'm getting bad sleep cause I'M still tired please help.

As in all the questions I help with I must first state that I am not a doctor so anything I suggest is just that… a suggestion. I do however conduct a great deal of research into dreaming and have been researching sleep for over 6 years now so I do have a fair understanding of current theories of why we dream as well as the most recent research into those theories.

To help with your problem:

There are a number of reasons why you could be having this, I will try to address each one separately and you can then decided what one makes sense to you to approach. Those areas are circadian rhythm and normal NREM-REM cycles.

Circadian Rhythm:
Many different aspects of our wake/sleep cycle are controlled by what we call the circadian rhythm. In a way it’s the time keeper inside of our body that is dependent on a 28 hour rhythm. Body temperature is also controlled with this cycle and therefore when it’s time to sleep we feel an increase in body temperature along with a drop in core temperature. The body acts like a radiator for your core temperature and this is why you sometimes feel hot when laying in bed, as well as cold in the mornings when your core temperature is down. You might ask how does this relate to my problem? Well, if your bodies’ circadian rhythm is messed up because of how often you stay you up at night and sleep during the day, then you would have troubles sleeping during the time when your body thinks it should be awake. Your sleep cycles (NREM and REM) would also be thrown off by this until either your body naturally gets back into a normal rhythm or you stop sleeping at random times.

REM NREM Cycles:
REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and NREM (Non Random Eye Movement) are two of the main key components in your sleep cycle. NREM involves cycles 1-4 as REM involves 5. During the night you go through these cycles at about 90 min cycles depending on how long you have been asleep. REM is the time when most of your dreaming occurs but also about 25% of your dreams are also produced during the NREM cycle. What this all means is that each night (depending on how long you sleep) you have multiple REM cycles as well as waking cycles as well as cycles 1-4, so sleep is not just lay down and then dream and wake up like a lot of people think it is. It’s really a cycle of waking up and going back to bed many times a night. The problem that a lot of people run into when they are asleep is when they have too much or too little of one of the cycles and don’t feel rested after waking up. REM as well as NREM is controlled by different types of neurotransmitters (chemicals) in the brain and when a chemical imbalance occurs many problems start to exhibit themselves. This can range from signs of depression as well as fatigue or even as strong as waking hallucinations. In order to fix this issue it’s a good idea to eat healthy and different types of foods that contain both precursors (chemicals that will turn into neurotransmitters) of serotonin and acetylcholine neurotransmitters. You can easily look these up on the internet. You may also consider taking supplements such as 5-HTP (serotonin precursor) and choline salts (acetylcholine precursor) and it might help you balance this out. Another thing that is important is that different drugs and alcohol can cause issues with sleep. Alcohol can cause a chemical imbalance in the brain that deals with serotonin making it so that you don’t go into your REM cycle until after the alcohol wears off. This is called REM rebound and is described as massive amounts of vivid dreams that are remembered because we wake up in the middle of them. REM rebound is bad because we don’t get as much of the normal 1-4 sleep cycles that are required for a fully restful night.


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