Quality Waking

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One of the benefits of good sleep is feeling at your best when you are awake. In their daily work, sleep researchers often consider wakefulness to be a homogeneous state, but in their more thoughtful moments they understand that things are more nuanced. The quality of waking is even tougher to describe scientifically than the quality of sleep. One element in quality of life is how sleepy you feel during the day. Excessive daytime sleepiness is the term used by scientists, psychologists, and sleep researchers. The word excessive is subjective as is the experience of being sleepy. But we do have tools like the Epworth Sleep Scale and the Multiple Sleep Latency Test to help quantify sleepiness. The tests are useful to researchers and occasionally to doctors in clinical practice, but few ordinary people have taken them or use them to monitor their waking experiences. Quality waking is one of the goals of good sleep and a major reason we at Tuck promote sleep appreciation.

Waking could be considered Stage 0 in the stages of sleep. (It shows on EEG as fast frequency beta waves (>12 Hz) and alpha rhythm (8-12 Hz) if eyes are closed.) Waking is viewed as a negative during the night where it divides the fragments of fragmented sleep. During the day, however, most people want to be as awake as possible. To be vigilant we need to be well rested.

Scientists have also found that the quality of waking has an impact on how fast you can get to sleep at night. Exposure to interesting stimulation during the day keeps one from getting sleepy, in contrast to bored people who can become sleepy even with no deprivation. However, both those with high quality and low quality waking get to sleep at about the same latency period. This is another one of the unfortunate paradoxes of sleep and waking. If you get into the vicious cycle of poor sleep and daytime sleepiness, it can be tough to escape. A virtuous cycle of high quality alert waking followed by good sleep is preferable for a good quality of life.

There is also evidence that well rested people find it easier to be moral. You can maintain your moral code if you have enough energy. Sleep deprivation is a risk factor for poor behavior. Not only does daytime sleepiness cause declines in reaction times and physical performance; it also tends to reduce ethical behavior.

This is consistent with the neurobehavioral model of sleep loss that posits brain tiredness results in reduced functioning in the prefrontal lobes. The resulting changes in emotion, cognition, and behavior show up in psychological assessments as reduction in emotional intelligence and the ability to think constructively.

Relaxation

Relaxation, according to researcher Jim Horne, is not an absence of activity; it is a type of advanced activity requiring our higher brain functions. Most animals can’t do anything like relaxation. Horne says “relaxed wakefulness is a highly evolved, complex behavior”. Don’t Zen enthusiasts say something similar about the state they are pursuing?

Relaxation is often defined as a removal of tension and as a return to equilibrium after some sort of stress. The body needs an internal stability – homeostasis – at the cellular, organ, and overall level. In day-to-day life, the person is subjected to many disturbances. Sleep helps restore homeostasis, and relaxation, when done properly, is part of the higher order functions humans can do.

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