Counting Sheep Doesn’t Actually Work, and Other Misconceptions About Sleep

A trick I’ve used to fall asleep is to pick a category, bands, birds, animals, sea creatures, flowers which is fairly broad and try to go through the alphabet thinking of an example from each one. I find that the reason that this works is that frequently worry and anxiety can keep us awake so giving the brain something to do is helpful.

The reason to avoid waking a sleep walker is that they have no idea where they are. They are in a different world.

Does Being Anesthetized Count as Sleep?

There is a small amount of similarity in terms of electrical activity, but the two processes are chemically distinct.  The electrical activity is only similiar in that it comes from the brain and therefore is recognisable as waveforms – you lose all REM sleep while under anaesthesia.  Sleep is a complex state that is not simply just reduced activity. Sleep includes complex processing by various areas of the brain, possibly enhancing memory storage and “cleaning” junk, other parts are periods of reduced activity.

The real difference however comes from the surgical procedure you are likely receiving, the stress, cortisol, sympathetic activation produce a vastly different physiological state to natural sleep.

It should be noted that during minor procedures (i.e dental surgery, etc) you are not actually “knocked out”. Usually you’re put under what’s called “twilight sedation” in which you are mostly conscious and responsive, but your memory is suppressed. This enables you to be responsive and cooperative with the surgeon, such as moving or opening your mouth when needed. Generally you’re not fully awake, but sort of sleepy/extremely relaxed. Pain killers are administered separately so you’re not being tortured.

Do people Snore while Anesthetized?

Snoring is just partial airway collapse due to reduced tone of the muscles holding up the soft tissue in the area. Whether that reduced tone is due to sleep or anesthetics, the end outcome (noises and obstruction) will be the same.  Snoring with an airway in is probably a bad sign, and I would be thinking about changing the airway.

Consider that if somebody got drunk and starts snoring – that doesn’t mean they’re sleeping, they could also be passed out from alcohol.  They should be placed on their side in recovery position, monitored, and drawn on with permanent marker.  That’s just basic triage 😉

More Detail about Sleep:

Sleep is divided up into Rapid Eye Movement (REM) & Non-REM sleep. we spend 80% of sleep in NREM & 20% in REM. Different phases of sleep can be identified on electroencephalogram (EEG) which when awake displays high frequency, low amplitude beta & gamma waves.

REM sleep is characterised by a disorganised EEG similar to the waking state, rapid jerking eye movements, increased blood pressure & heart rate, nonsensical dreams (“I went down a water slide with Santa”) & loss of muscle tone, presumably so we don’t act out our dreams.

NREM sleep has four phases:

  1. Drowsy
  2. Established
  3. Transitionary
  4. Deep

EEG waves become progressively slower and larger (alpha, theta, then delta waves). We spend 50% of sleep in phase 2 NREM. Phase 4 is characterised by difficult rousing and organised dreams (“I have a meeting to get to tomorrow morning”). Deep NREM sleep is also the phase associated with parasomnias (e.g. sleepwalking, sleep talking), night terrors and bed wetting in children. The EEG of anaesthesia varies depending on the agents used but most resembles the synchronised low frequency, high amplitude wave of phase 3/4 NREM.

Bonus: Can We Sneeze When We Sleep?

The trigeminal motoneuron pools that mediate the sneeze reflex are inhibited during NREM sleep and are actively suppressed during REM sleep as part of atonia. Which means it is much more difficult to sneeze during NREM sleep and nearly impossible in REM (without also causing waking).

The Secrets Of Highly Efficient Napping

I didn’t fall asleep – I was trying to suffocate a fly in my eye…

Not all naps are created equal. Some naps have been shown to rejuvenate where others boost creativity. What’s more, when you nap can be as important as how you nap. Here’s how to nap like a professional, nap-taking machine. Here’s how to nap like you MEAN IT.

Source: The Secrets Of Highly Efficient Napping

Sleep has been something I’ve come to respect more now that I train/exercise more.  I’d been testing my training plan in September, and by mid November/December I was noticing I was getting run down.  I’d have energy for a physical workout, but at my desk at work?  I was powering down around 10 AM, after having difficulty waking around 6:30.  I’d been passing it off as having to do with the days getting shorter and less light.

Why There’s Still No Electronic Technology That Can Put You To Sleep

That flash of light is the first clue that the technology is too good to be true. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University found that nighttime exposure to light – especially the kind emitted by electronic devices – makes it harder to fall asleep.

Aiming a little lower than instant-sleep-inducing technology, we find ourselves among a range of devices that won’t make you fall asleep, but might make you sleep better.

Source: Why There’s Still No Electronic Technology That Can Put You To Sleep

Haven’t they heard of Naptime! ?

Study: Tables & E-Readers Might Alter Your Sleep Schedule

In less than a decade, reading has shifted from the medium it dominated for centuries—paper—to screens of various sorts. The change in habit has been accompanied by concerns over whether this could be influencing sleep. Exposure to light biased toward blue wavelengths, such as that produced by the screens of tablets, has been shown to alter the circadian rhythms that set the body’s clock.

A number of studies have suggested that this is a real problem—enough that the Mayo Clinic’s advice on getting better sleep notes that “Some research suggests that screen time or other media use before bedtime interferes with sleep.” Now, new research published in PNAS provides some hard numbers to back up these worries. But it’s a small study with some significant limitations, so this shouldn’t be seen as the final word on the topic.

Source: E-readers and tablets really do seem to alter your sleep schedule

My narcolepsy kept me from participating in the study 😉