by: Dr. Craig A. Maxwell
It is estimated that over 40 million people in the United States suffer from some type of sleep disorder. Insomnia and lack of sleep is responsible for chronic health disorders such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Autoimmune diseases and chronic pain disorders have been shown to increase the risk of hypersomnia or excessive sleeping. Sleep apnea can be fatal if left untreated. No matter what type of sleep disorder you’re struggling with, there are natural treatments that can help.
The Natural Sleep Cycle
There are two different types of sleep: REM and non-REM. The first stage of sleep is the REM stage or rapid eye movement stage. The rapid eye movement stage is when dreaming occurs. Your eyes move back and forth in response to what you’re seeing in your dreams. During this stage of sleep, however, the muscles in your arms and legs are paralyzed to keep you from “acting out” your dreams.
The next stage of sleep, non-REM sleep, is a deeper part of the natural sleep cycle and is divided into four stages. The first and second stage of deep, non-dreaming sleep is crucial for overall well-being. The third and fourth stages are the deepest and are considered the most restorative parts of sleep. It is during these stages that cells regenerate themselves and the body and mind can heal from the stresses of everyday life.
REM sleep and non-REM sleep alternate throughout the night in a cyclical fashion, with REM sleep starting out at a duration of only a couple of minutes and lengthening throughout the night. The average length of each REM-non-REM sleep cycle lasts between 70 and 100 minutes.
Common Sleep Disorders
Though there are approximately 70 different diagnosable sleep disorders, they can be classified into three general categories: Insomnia (lack of sleep), disturbed sleep (sleep apnea), and excessive sleep (hypersomnia).
Let’s look at these three categories more carefully.