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Digging Deep for Good Sleep

by RemedyFind Columnist and Sleep Disorders Host - Amy Proal

Sleep. For most of us the word lends itself to a simple image – a time when our bodies seem to disconnect and lose awareness of the world around us. However, the time we spend sleeping is not a constant or uniform state where our bodies shut off. Instead, sleep is much more complex, involving several different phases, each with its own characteristics. The following paragraphs examine what happens as our bodies move through various stages of sleep during the course of a night. Understanding the phases of sleep helps us realize that it is not just the LENGTH of time we spend sleeping that is important, but also the QUALITY of our sleep in terms of maintaining normal sleep structure. It becomes clear that we can enhance the quality of our sleep by striving to get as much deep sleep as possible.

During the night, we pass through five stages of sleep. Stages 1, 2, 3, and 4 make up what is called non-REM sleep. Stage 5 sleep is composed of a period referred to as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.

When we first close our eyes to go to sleep at night, we enter a state of relaxed wakefulness. We normally spend less than ten minutes in this state before falling asleep.

We proceed to enter into Stage 1 sleep, a drowsy transitional state between waking and sleeping from which we are easily awakened. During this time, our bodies relax deeply. Respiration slows, our muscles relax, and our heart rate drops. Mental activity during Stage 1 sleep involves a large amount of mental imagery, and the mind tends to drift and wander as our awareness of the outside world diminishes.

A normal individual spends only a few minutes in Stage 1 sleep before descending into Stage 2 sleep, which is considered the first true sleep stage. During Stage 2 we become even more detached from conscious thought as the brain and body become deeply relaxed. Although Stage 2 is deeper than Stage 1, it is still a light stage of sleep from which we are easily awakened.

We spend thirty to forty minutes in Stage 2 before entering the deeper stages of sleep called Stage 3 and Stage 4. During deep sleep, the brain reaches its lowest levels of physiological activity. Blood flow is dramatically reduced and the brain begins to use much less energy. It is very hard to wake up from deep sleep because the brain has turned off its awareness of the external world. We spend about forty-five minutes in deep sleep, revert to Stage 2 sleep for a few minutes, and then enter REM sleep.

REM sleep is characterized by intense visual imagery in the form of dreams. Many areas of the brain are highly active during REM sleep, particularly those involved in emotions and stress. This means that blood flow, blood pressure, and heart rate increase during this period, and the body uses more oxygen and glucose. However, the frontal lobes of the brain, which are responsible for cognitive function and awareness, remain inactive during REM sleep.

During the course of a night’s sleep, we progress from Stage 1 through Stage 4 and then through REM sleep in about 90 minutes. Early in the night, deep sleep periods are longer (sometimes lasting up to one hour) whereas REM periods only last a few minutes. Later in the night, deep sleep periods grow shorter and the duration of REM periods increase so that by the final REM period of the early morning, REM sleep may persist for an hour.

As a result, we obtain most of our deep sleep during the first half of the night and most of our dream sleep during the last half of the night. Consequently, when aiming to obtain more deep sleep it is a good idea to get at least six straight hours of sleep between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6-7 a.m. in order to take advantage of the time earlier in the night when the body naturally spends longer periods in Stage 4 sleep.


[edit to shorten article. click on link to read more. -navy]

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Interesting Article - thanks for posting it ;)

Odd. Did some research and found this on Xyrem from the FDA

"The Food and Drug Administration approved Xyrem (sodium oxybate or gamma hydroxybutyrate, also known as GHB) for treating a small population of patients with narcolepsy who experience episodes of cataplexy, a condition characterized by weak or paralyzed muscles. Because of safety concerns associated with the use of the drug, the distribution of Xyrem will be tightly restricted."

And then this website


"Xyrem has abuse potential with some important central nervous system adverse events (including death). Even at recommended doses, the use of Xyrem has been associated with confusion, depression, neuropsychiatric events, and respiratory depression.The responsible use of Xyrem as an anticataplectic agent requires consideration of some important safety issues. The active ingredient is sodium oxybate, a sodium salt of gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB). Xyrem is a central nervous system depressant classified as a Schedule III controlled drug substance and must be used with care. "

You can find the PI sheet here


IMO, Sounds like one to stay away from.

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  • 4 weeks later...

i dont see how Xyrem can be any more dangerous than the benzos of Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopon......

i have addiction issues and i wouldn't be less hesitant about taking Xyrem than of taking a benzo.........Xyrem seems like it is almost side effect free and works quite well for getting one to sleep and allowing them to get the stages of sleep they need.  The date rape drug of GHB was mixed with alcohol, so that may have been a bigger reason for the victim passing out so quik.

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  • 1 month later...

Ironically, Xyrem/GHB is probably the best drug out there for the cataplexy that generally accompanies narcolepsy, of all things!  (Cataplexy = limp/nonstiff paralysis of the entire body, or just part of it... it's noted in about half of narcoleptics, to some degree.)  Trust me, I'd experienced partial cataplexy prior, in my left leg (the MS I have affecting that region doesn't help, either).

They think Xyrem/GHB's ironic effectiveness in cataplexy has to do something with the enhancement of deep sleep.  In fact, many bodybuilders/male fitness freaks used to take GHB, back when it was just a 'supplement', to increase deep sleep and thus production of human growth hormone (HGH).

Interesting stuff, it is.

How true that is.  </Dan Quayle>

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