Consciousness: Sleep, Dreams, Hypnosis, and Drugs
Roberto Diaz was very anxious. He was nearing the end of his freshman semester when he suddenly remembered that he had signed up for another class and had never attended it. He couldn't even remember the name of the course, but exams were coming on fast and he was absolutely sure that he was going to fail that “mystery” class. To make things worse, he'd been searching for this “lost course” for five nights in a row. Each time he woke up…fearful, heart pounding, pillowcase soaked with perspiration. The dream was so real that he had a hard time believing that there really was no “lost course.” There are many explanations for a recurring dream like Roberto's. Most likely, he was worried about exams, studying late, and not getting enough deep, restoring sleep. The various states of sleep can affect your nighttime dreams and your daytime ability to focus. This lesson introduces the ideas of waking consciousness and altered states of sleep, including dreaming. It also covers drug use and misuse because they interfere with psychological conditions. This lesson presents the following topics:
• What is Consciousness?
• Altered States: Sleep
• Altered States: Hypnosis
• Altered States: Psychoactive Drugs
What is Consciousness?
Imagine that you are standing beside the ocean on a windy day. You sense the wind on your face, you hear the waves lapping at the shore, you may be thinking that you are hungry, but you are feeling very peaceful. And even though you are hungry, you might not want to leave. All these sensations, thoughts, and feelings are part of your consciousness [A person's awareness of everything that is going on around him or her at any given moment] at that moment. Waking consciousness [State in which thoughts, feelings, and sensations are clear, organized, and the person feels alert] is the time we spend awake. It is the state of consciousness with which we are most familiar…the state in which we spend most of our lives. When we experience states of consciousness that are different from the waking state, we are in an altered state of consciousness. Examples of an altered state of consciousness are: • Sleep
Altered States: Sleep
You have to sleep. As a college student, you might sometimes try to go without sleep, but doing so catches up with you. No matter how hard you try, your body's biological rhythms ultimately insist that you sleep. These natural cycles of activity, often referred to as biorhythms, include many bodily functions, such as your heartbeat, the regulation of your body temperature, and your sleep-wake cycle. These biological rhythms are individual. Your best friend may require a full 8 hours of sleep, while you may feel fine with only 7 hours, and your brother or sister may need 9 hours. We're all different. The important thing is to know what you need and to make sure that you get the right amount of sleep. Controlled by the hypothalamus, the sleep-wake cycle is a circadian rhythm that causes you to need sleep for some period of time during every 24-hour period. Your Internal Clock: The SCN
The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), located in the hypothalamus of the brain, is the internal clock that tells you when to wake up and when to go to sleep. When daylight fades, melatonin is released and makes you feel sleepy. When the sun comes up, melatonin secretion stops, and you wake up. Although you might be able to go without sleep for a while (such as during final exams), it is impossible to deprive yourself of sleep altogether. Your body will not allow it. In fact, some people—even while trying to go without sleep—experience microsleeps, or brief “sidesteps” of sleep that last only a few seconds. Sleep deprivation, or loss of sleep, can create problems with your concentration and your health. Symptoms include: • Trembling hands
• Droopy eyelids
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