What Goes On Behind Closed Eyes?

By: Jenyn P.  

All over the world people have sleep disorders, or just don’t get enough sleep at night.  Some people have weird or strange dreams that can be scary or funny. And no matter what happens we go through different stages of sleep, the intense and the less intense.  

How Deep Is Your Sleep?

There are five different stages in sleep. Stage one, Stage two, stage three, stage four, and REM (rapid eye movement). Even though REM is the fifth stage it’s not the deepest stage, four is.

In stage one you lose total awareness of the outside world around you. You also experience fascinating images also known as hallucinations.  Your breathing rate and brain activity slows down. Plus, your brain produces lower voltage waves and the alpha waves become less regular.

But in stage two you have rapid 13-16 second long rhythmic waves called sleep spindles. Sleep spindles can last up to 2-3 minutes. There are also occasional rises and falls of apltiude (wave height) in your sleep. Sleep talking is common in this stage.

In stage three you are harder to wake, then if you were in stages one or two. This level consists of low frequency, high voltage delta waves. The delta waves will look bigger/more regular, almost like the waves in the ocean.

  Stage four is the deepest level of sleep. Sleep walking happens and small children experience bed wetting. Older children can release a growth hormone in the air. In this stage slow delta waves appear almost constantly and can last up to 20 minutes.

  REM stands for rapid eye movement, because you can see the sleepers’ eyes moving even through closed eye lids. The brain waves of REM are different than other stages. Several dreaming episodes happen during the night. The dreamers’ muscles are paralyzed, and they lose their tension, immobilizing the sleeper.

REM lasts around 10 minutes then it goes back into stages three and four. REM then three and four repeats itself 4-6 times a night then you enter REM again, after 90 minutes have passed. REM increases frequency and duration in the second half of the night.

How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?

1 week olds

16-18 hours

1 year olds

12-14 hours

5 year olds

10-12 hours

7 year olds

9-11 hours

11 year olds

8-10 hours

  Teenagers can need up to 9-10 hours of sleep a day. Teenagers need more sleep than 11 year olds because of the change that their bodies go through. If teenagers don’t get enough sleep they can feel cranky and unhappy. They will be more likely to get sick or have a harder time learning in school.

  Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night.(1 hour of sleep every 2 hours their awake). So that puts it at about 8 hours of sleep a night. The less sleep an adult has, the easier it’s to fall asleep, but 1 night without sleep and they may have a hard time picking the right words to say. Your sleep loss accumulates and doesn't go away until they get enough to make up for it. When participating in something (playing a sport or driving a car) your body believes that you are no longer tired, it’s an illusion of the brain.

Do You Dream Of Flying Monkeys?

  One theory of why we dream is it may be a form of exercise to help the brain develop. The people of ancient India believed that when you dream, you get a glimpse of where you will go after you die. But the Senoia people believe that their dreams warn them of problems or conflicts of their upcoming life.

Dreams have some complicated and some easy meanings. Some vivid and exciting, usually something you did or will do. Some people put together fragments of their day in bazaar ways when they dream. But often we dream of people we know, but their doing things that are not typical. Even though most dreams are happy, some dreams can be frightening usually called nightmares. When people try to interpret these dreams it’s hard because dreams erase from our minds unless we write them down right then.

Sleep Disorders

There are 4 serious sleep disorders. Night terrors, Insomnia, Narcolepsy, and sleep apnea or snoring. Here’s why…

Night terrors occur during stage four of sleep. Children or occasionally adults can be hit with a night terror. When it happens, their heart and breathing rate increase and the person usually appears terrified. Then the person will suddenly sit up and walk around. But they don’t remember any of it in the morning.

Insomnia is not a specific sleep disorder since it may have different causes. Such as worry, depression, anxiety, gastrosophageal reflux (stomach acid in esophagus), RLS (restless leg syndrome), fibromyalgia (pain in muscles and tendons), or emotional and psychiatric problems. All of that is usually a sign of a bigger problem. Only humans can experience this disease. People experience racing, uncontrollable thoughts or the inability to sleep normally (can’t fall asleep). They sleep shorter hours and awaken before normal rising time. 6% of males and 14% of females have problems falling asleep at night (Insomnia).

In the U.S., Narcolepsy affects as many people as 250,000 although fewer than half are diagnosed. It becomes noticeable in adolescence or young adult hood. Narcolepsy is VERY serious and consists of the sudden irresistible urge to sleep. It can strike men or women at any time. The person can experience vivid images loss of muscle tone and sometimes even see a strange white light. When the person is asleep he or she goes right into REM sleep and completely skips the other stages. Now, Narcolepsy is treated with a stimulate medication (amphetamines and Ritalin)

An estimated 12 million Americans have sleep apnea, over 25 % of men and 15 % of women snore every single night. Of course not every snorer is at risk as long as there are no long pauses or snorts. When the apnea sufferer stops breathing for up to 60 seconds he or she gasps and snorts himself awake long enough for him to take a breath. Now the extra loud snoring can be a sign of a serious problem called obstructive sleep apnea. When any snorer takes a breath his or her tongue, uvula vibrates. The lack of oxygen at night makes the sleepers heart work harder, and can cause high blood pressure or even a heart attack and stroke. Some people wake up hundreds of times in the night and have no idea why they are so tired in the morning.


People all over the world have different ways they sleep at night. Who knows it may be they suffer from a sleeping disorder. Or they don’t get enough sleep at night, and just don’t know it. People have the most amazing dreams but have no way to communicate them, since they forget it when they wake up. What goes on behind your closed eyes?

Works Cited

Romanek, Trudee. "A Good Nights Sleep." Zzz... 2002: 34-35. Print.

Rosen, Marvin. sleep and dreaming. New York City NY: Infobase publishing, 2006. Print.

"Sleep In America Poll." www.sleepfoundation.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

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