Sleep Monitoring Report
Six years or a third of eighteen years is roughly how much time of my life I have spent asleep. Six years in which the most complicated item in the known universe is practically defenseless. Better yet, six years where my mind almost completely departs from its usual realm of consciousness. A remarkable feature of most organisms with a brain; one I truly love. But why do I love to sleep? The question then arises, what is happening behind my closed eyelids and inside my brain? What benefit (if any) does sleeping do for me? Let’s find out.
In order to understand the data, I had collected, I needed to learn about sleep. Sleep follows patterns of bodily functions and brain activity; while we sleep, our brains exhibit distinct and unique stages of brain activity. This paper will discuss the patterns and stages of sleep and how marijuana affects them.
When you fall asleep, your brain and body go through five stages of sleep in one sleep cycle. These stages of sleep have been classified by monitoring the electrical activity of the brain using an electroencephalogram (EEG), muscle tone, and eye movements. EEG readings are able to measure brain activating by placing a number of sensors on the scalp. These sensors measure brain waves and classify them according to their speed. Alpha-rhythms have the highest frequency, followed by beta-rhythms. Theta and delta waves are the slowest having the smallest frequency. A typical sleep cycle lasts around 90 minutes, during which the brain goes through each type of brain wave. The sleep cycle continues this process until it has been repeated approximately five or six times during the course of the night.
The first four stages are considered to be Non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep (NREM) or orthodox sleep. The function of these stages is to restore and rebuild the body after a long period of wakefulness. Vegetative functions dominate NREM sleep. The body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure decrease, muscles relax, and the body metabolism slows.
Stage I. Stage I is a transition between sleep and wakefulness which is usually only five minutes in duration. Short dreams may occur, usually involving images remembered from throughout the day. The brain’s electrical activity slows as exhibited by beta-rhythms on the EEG.
Stage II. Stage II is a somewhat deeper level of sleep, characterized by slower breathing and heart rates. The EEG of stage II shows slow beta-rhythms, interspersed with periods of fast alpha-rhythms called sleep spindles and some delta-rhythms.
Stages III and IV. Stages III and IV are the deepest levels of sleep and have the slowest waves as measured by EEG: Stage III has both theta and delta rhythms, while Stage IV has only delta-rhythms. The body uses this time to maintain and restore itself. Growth hormone secretions are at their highest during these stages. Stages III and IV begin after one has been asleep for approximately half an hour. The first episodes of Stage II and IV sleep are usually the longest of the night. As successive cycles of sleep pass, these stages are replaced by longer periods of Stage V sleep.
Stage V. Stage V is vastly different from the previous stages. The brain activates causing the body to activate, increasing heart rate and blood pressure. The eyes shudder quickly back and forth, giving this stage the name Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. EEG patterns of REM sleep are quite similar compared to those of wakefulness. REM sleep typically lasts about 11 to 25 minutes, longer as you proceed through the night. 25% of all sleep is REM sleep in adults. Once completed with REM sleep, the brain and body revert to Stage I to start the cycle again.
Marijuana Impact on My Sleep
The initial stage of Stage I sleep is the one I trouble the most with, usually spending an hour trying to fall asleep. Since my recent uptake of marijuana, the initial stage of sleep comes instantly to me and I have no more trouble falling asleep. Marijuana also seemed to decrease the amount of time I spend in this stage.
Stage 2 of sleep is still classified as light sleep. Overall, I spend around 30% of my total sleep in light sleep. The literature on the effects of marijuana on sleep all seem to agree that the subjective impressions of the effect of marijuana on sleep are that it facilitates sleep onset. This explains why I seem to fall and stay asleep much quicker after THC has been introduced into my system.
By monitoring my sleep, I seem to have found a correlation between marijuana consumption and an increase in deep sleep. Taking doses of THC seemed to give me more time in deep sleep. Again, in deep sleep the body repairs itself thus, increasing the time in this stage would also increase the repair of my body. Which prompt me to ask if I spent longer time I spent in deep sleep would my quality of sleep increase. To my surprise a correlation did exist. I looked at the nights where I spent a majority of my sleep in deep sleep and found that the following mornings I would awaken well rested. The literature also supports that THC prolongs Stage 3 and 4.
Perhaps what surprised me was not what THC did to my sleep while in my body but rather the effects it has when not present. I have personally experienced the symptoms researchers have identified when individual’s withdrawal from THC. For example, during a week-long cruise I abstained from THC causing these problems come sleep-time: trouble falling and staying asleep, very light sleep, a minute amount of time spent in deep and REM sleep. Which overall, affected the quality of my trip.
While I enjoy being asleep, I dread the moment of falling asleep. This report howvwer has opened my mind to continue to monitor my sleep and improve the quality of it. THC may help me fall asleep and stay asleep while in my system, but a lack of THC seems to cause more dire affects. Perhaps THC is not the best sleep aide but, like most articles on THC and sleep say, “more research is needed.” I guess the next step is more research!