States of Consciousness

Consciousness is our awareness of ourselves and our environment. Over the course of a day, we flit between a variety of states of consciousness, including sleeping, walking, and other altered states.


Sleep is a major state of consciousness that everyone experiences. The pattern between waking and sleeping is called the circadian rhythm.

As one sleeps, we pass through five different stages of sleep. These are called Stages 1, 2, 3, 4, and Rapid Eye Movement sleep.

As we are awake, but relaxed, the brain waves recorded by EEG are slow and consistent. These are called alpha waves. As we slip into sleep we have more irregular brain waves with spindles of activity, followed by slow delta waves of Stage 4 sleep (deepest sleep).

REM Sleep: In this stage, our brain waves are similar to that of Stage 1, we have bursts of eye movement behind our close eyelids, and our bodies are paralyzed. This 10 minute period of our approximately 90 minute cycle is when most of our dreams occur.

There are many theories as to why we sleep: to protect us during the night (evolutionary), to help recuperate, to make memories, to feed creative thinking, and to aid in the growth process.

Hypnosis: A social interaction in which one person suggests another that certain perceptions, feelings, thoughts, or behaviors will spontaneously occur

Some people see hypnosis as a social phenomena (working through social influence) while others see it as a divided consciousness (working through dissociation)

Hypnosis has been shown to bring unexpected results. Posthypnotic suggestions have been shown to alleviate physical illnesses such as headaches, asthma, and stress-related skin disorders, as well as pain relief. Some believe it may simply be a powerful placebo.


Chemicals that change perceptions and moods through their actions at neural synapses

Three Types:

Depressants: Calm neural activity and slow body functions

Stimulants: Excite neural activities and arouse body functions

Hallucinogens: Distort perceptions and evoke sensory images in the absence of sensory input

Influences on drug use:

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