Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth, Pastor
Rev. Millie Myren, Support Minister
Reflection November 5, 2017
"Perchance to Dream: Helping Heal Insomnia" by Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
On Wednesday, November 8, I will offer a teaching on current findings regarding insomnia. There will be two presentations of this material: from 11 am until noon and again from 7:00 until 8:00 PM in our parlor. Much of what I will offer comes from an all-day workshop I attended on October 18. While I already knew a fair amount about the issue of insomnia, I did learn some helpful hints at that workshop.
It is estimated that between 15% and 30% of our country’s population struggles with insomnia. Insomnia is characterized by difficult falling or staying asleep. There are many reasons underlying people’s struggles to get enough restorative sleep.
Today we sleep on average 20% less than our ancestors did 100 years ago. More than half the adult population occasionally loses sleep due to stress and/or anxiety. Insomnia is accentuated among the elderly. Of those 60 years of age and older, half suffer some form of insomnia. The older we become, the more likely we will struggle with some variation of insomnia.
Women are twice as likely to suffer from insomnia as men. This statistic may be tied to the higher incidence of depression in women. 90% of people who suffer from depression experience insomnia.
Adults who suffer from sleep deprivation get less than the recommended 7 to 8.5 hours of sleep per night (children need much more sleep!). Those with a serious sleep deficit are 27% more likely to become overweight and/or obese. I personally believe sleep deficits are connected with the growing obesity of our young. Insomnia disturbs the hormones that regulate hunger and feelings of being full.
A recent poll found that 60% of people have driven a car while sleepy and 37% admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show that 100,000 vehicle accidents occur annually because of drowsy driving. (Makes one want to avoid the expressways!)
Let me add that waking up during the night does not constitute insomnia. We all wake up an average of between 4 and 10 times every night. If we never wake during the night, we’d then be in a coma! So we should not worry if we’re in the normal range of times awakened in a night’s sleep.
Most of us have heard about REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep which happens regularly throughout the night (and tends to increase later through the night). REM occurs when we dream. Humans are not the only species who have REM Sleep, lots of species have it. Sleep researchers still do not know why the brain generates REM Sleep. REM Sleep is usually very light sleep and most of us are more likely to wake up during REM Sleep. In REM - our bodies are relatively paralyzed (so we don’t “act out” our dreams).
Alcohol and various prescription drugs depress REM Sleep. It is well-known that if one has little or no REM Sleep, one can quickly become psychotic. So we need to dream - even though there is still scant research that explains why we need dreams. Dreams may have to do with memory consolation. So we all would do well to dream on!
There are three major stages of sleep - not counting REM Sleep. In Stage 1 Sleep - we retain some consciousness and are easily awakened. Stage 1 doesn’t last too long on average (unless one has trouble falling asleep and staying asleep early on!).
Stage 2 is the biggest chunk of sleep for most people - totaling up to 50% of an average night’s sleep. Stage 2 is helpful but it is not as helpful as Stage 3 Sleep.
Stage 3 Sleep is also known as “slow brain wave sleep.” When one is in Stage 3 Sleep, one’s body and mind are being especially restored. Stage 3 is really deep and restorative sleep. This stage is sometimes called “Delta Wave Sleep.” This stage is when the body releases human growth hormones.
In an average 22-year-old, Stage 3 Sleep accounts for about 20% of a night’s sleep. In someone 60 years of age or older, there is little or no Stage 3 Sleep. It’s no wonder we elders feel tired even after a good night’s sleep! There are some things we can do to help increase Stage 3 Sleep.
So come and learn what to do about getting better quality sleep! It’s my hope to offer a good number of very practical suggestions for helping us all sleep better and sleep longer! As the old adage states: “A good conscience is a soft pillow!”
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Chicago, IL 60643