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Sleep Related Breathing Disorders (cont.)

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Why do we sleep?

This is a complex topic that we only partially understand. Mammals, reptiles, birds, and even fruit flies have been observed sleeping. A manatee can sleep with one side of its brain while the other side is awake and alert. Sleeping in this way avoids a long period of unconsciousness, during which it would be very vulnerable. Humans typically need 6-8 hours of sleep every night, but individuals vary in their need for sleep. During sleep, we rest and repair our muscles and organize our thoughts and memories. Therefore, if we become sleep deprived, we feel both physically fatigued and mentally exhausted. Many studies show that sleep deprivation causes a decrease in problem solving ability, attention, and manual reflex times.

What are the stages of sleep?

Sleep stages can be measured by monitoring the electrical impulses within the brain, often termed brain waves. These electrical impulses, or brain waves can be monitored with an electroencephalogram (EEG). Sleep can be broken up into four stages and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Stage 1 sleep is the most superficial and stage 4 is the deepest. Stage 1 and 2 sleep are both considered to be light sleep, while stage 3 and 4 sleep are both deeper, more restorative sleep. These stages are important for the body to feel well. REM sleep is the sleep stage in which we typically dream. During REM, the brain sends signals to the muscles to relax, so we do not "act out" our dreams. The relaxation of muscles in REM sleep can sometimes worsen sleep related breathing disorders like snoring and sleep apnea. We typically spend about 50% of our sleep in stages 1 and 2, 25% in stages 3 and 4, and 25% in REM sleep.

For additional information please visit the Sleep Center.

Medically reviewed by James E Gerace, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Pulmonary Disease


"Sleep related breathing disorders in adults: Definitions"

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/15/2014

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