Sleep and Consciousness


Conscious as described in William James's book Principles of Psychology:

   every thought is a part of the individual's personal consciousness

   consciousness is always changing

   consciousness is a continuous process that cannot be broken down into segments

   consciousness selects from its environment what it will be aware of


Fisher in 1991 defined consciousness as the processing of information at various levels of awareness. Most definitions stress awareness of sensation, thoughts, and feelings that are experienced. Freud suggested that we 3 levels of consciousness:

Conscious mind - is what we are aware of in everyday life

Preconscious mind - is where we store information we have learned

Unconscious mind - is where material is kept that is not readily available to us [such as fears, unpleasant memories]


Psychologists divide the study of consciousness into waking and altered states of consciousness.


Sleeping and Dreaming

We spend about a third of our life sleeping.


During the waking state, the EEG shows two basic brain-wave patterns: alpha and beta activity.


Alpha - has a frequency of 8-12 Hz and is produced when a person is relaxed and resting quietly with eyes closed.

Beta - has a frequency of 13-30 Hz and is produced when a person is alert


Sleep has two types of activities;

REM [rapid eye movement] which indicates more activity

NREM [nonREM] sleep

NREM sleep has four stages:

Stage 1 - is the transition from relaxation to sound sleep. There is drowsiness and there may have some visual images that are more like hallucination than daydreams. Can be easily awakened and can be influenced by outside stimuli. [contains theta activity

Stage 2 - we spend about 50% of our time a sleep in this stage. There are bursts of activity or 12-14Hz waves called sleep spindles

Stage 3 - is the transition stage from stage 2 to 4 we spend about 10% of our time in this stage. There are sleep spindles but we have delta activity which is 1-3Hz waves.

Stage 4 - called deep sleep, consists of over 50% delta activity. We spend approximately 15% of sour sleep in this stage. It is extremely difficult to wake someone from this stage and when we do, the person tends to be groggy and does not function fully. [this stage is when we might see sleepwalking, night terrors, bedwetting]

In NREM sleep the eyes will move slowly from side to side, heart rate slows, BP goes down and breathing is slow and regular. [snoring occurs in NREM]


REM sleep is often called dream sleep, active sleep, or paradoxical sleep. This is where dreaming occurs characteristics of rem sleep are similar to those of the wake state as heart rate increases as well as BP and breathing becomes more variable there is peripheral twitching of the face and fingers, the large muscles of the body are paralyzed by the nervous system.


Age affects sleep.

The neonate sleeps up to 16 hours a day, usually in relatively short sessions. By the age 2-5 this is reduced to 11 hours a day.

Between 6-16 goes to about 8 hours a day and stays that way during adulthood.

As people age, they tend to have more difficulty sleeping. Older individuals tend to awake more often during the night, take longer to fall asleep, and have less overall quality sleep. Research suggests that women tend to be more resistant to age changes in sleep patterns than do men. Individuals over the age of 50 tend to spend little time in stage 4 sleep.

Theories of sleep:

The restorative theory of sleep: states that sleep repairs and restores us after the day's activities. This suggests that the body repairs tissue, memory is consolidated, or mental alertness is restored during sleep.

Adaptive theory of sleep: states that sleep keeps us inactive during times that we might be hurt or that we would waste energy. L[ it would be dangerous for us to active in the dark]


Research on sleep deprivation by itself does not produce extreme changes in mental functioning.

Studies suggest if deprived of REM and NREM stage 4 there is a rebound affect and those individuals will spend for time in REM and /or stage 4 seemingly to make up for the lost time.

NREM seems important in physical restoration of the body. Molofsk and Scarisbrigck [1976] reported that subjects deprived of stage 4 sleep complained o muscle and joint pain. Other studies have suggested the human growth hormones were released during NREM sleep. Though the evidence is not overwhelming it does appear that NREM is related to the body's healing system.


Sleep Disorders


Dyssominia and parasomnias

Insomnia is the inability to sleep. There are many causes for and types of insomnia. Some fall asleep okay but can't stay asleep or they have trouble falling asleep.

People who suffer from insomnia tend to show higher sympathetic nervous system activity, indicating that stress is often a key factor.


Sleep apnea is a disorder in which the person falls asleep easily but stop breathing and wake up. About 10% of men over the age of 40 have some form of sleep apnea. This may be related to SIDS sudden infant death syndrome [crib death].

Narcolepsy which is a form of hypersomnia, it is a disorder characterized by inappropriate and uncontrollable daytime attacks of sleep. The narcoleptic goes directly into REM sleep, the sleep episodes lasts for less than 15 minutes. It is suspected the person has in adequate amounts of neurotransmitters or abnormal functioning in the medulla. Sometimes the it can be treated with stimulants.


NREM sleep disorders include sleep talking, sleepwalking, enuresis [bed wetting] and sleep terrors. [begins around 4 years old]



The value of dreams seems to be partly cultural. Freud theorize that dreams were the road to the unconscious. He develop the wish fulfillment theory in which we were free to dream about what we would like regardless of the consequences. Freud presented that parts of our dreams [manifest dream content] was consciously remembers and latent dream content which was unconscious contributions. He was interested in the symbolism with in the dream. Carl Jung, a neofreudian, theorized that dreams were symbolic representation of the collective unconscious.


Cognitive theories of Dreaming: Rosalind Cartwright proposed that dreaming facilitates the problem-solving process, especially when we are stressed. Ernest Hartmann proposed that dreaming helped people deal with and work through their emotion states such as fears, anxieties.

Activation synthesis theory a biological approach suggests that brain activities itself and then synthesizes the information that is generated into our dreams. Dreams are the interpretations of brain activity


Altered states

Drugs that act in causing changes in brain chemistry [psychotropic or psychoactive] affect our conscious in a variety of ways.

We have classes of drugs such as depressant, barbiturates, opiates and analgesics, stimulants [caffeine, nicotine, amphetamines, cocaine], psychedelic drugs [ hallucinogens, marijuana, lsd] these affect the neurotransmitters which affect sensation, perception, mood, memory, etc. Pain for instance can be affected by changing the perception of the pain via increasing or decreasing the awareness of the pain. CNS depressants such as the opiates, barbiturates, alcohol, etc.



Is a state of consciousness induced by the words or actions of another that creates an environment whereby the person is susceptible to another's suggestions.



Is the focused relaxation of the conscious state. Yoga, transcendental meditation are examples of this. The person highly focuses on something and decreases the awareness of other stimuli or thought. Biological Rhythms People function on a variety of time cycles. We have seasons of the year, days of the week, and hours of the day. Psychologists are interested in the degree to which we are influenced by our external environment versus internal biological rhythms, or periodic changes in physiological functioning. One biological rhythm is the circadian cycle (from the Latin words, "about a day"). Our bodies appear to be genetically programmed to function on roughly a 24-hour cycle. An early test of this concept was carried out by sleep researchers Nathaniel Kleitman and B. Richardson, who in 1938 stayed in Kentucky's Mammoth Cave for 32 days. With no light/dark alterations, these scientists maintained an average "day" of 25 hours. They found that their functioning was best when the active parts of the day corresponded to the natural daylight cycle. Researchers have identified the mechanism for regulating our daily biological clocks. When we are exposed to light, our visual receptors stimulate the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the hypothalamus. This structure in turn stimulates the pineal gland to slow secretion of the hormone melatonin, which helps to regulate sleep/wake cycles (Schwartz,


Most people have peak performance at a particular time of day, with several smaller peaks distributed at other times. Some people function best in the morning, while others have their peak in the afternoon or evening. While there are large variations among individuals, a given person's cycle stays about the same from day to day. Most people have a series of 90-minute cycles throughout the day that regulate alertness and drowsiness. If our normal rhythm is disrupted, we tend to become anxious. For example, many people have difficulty adjusting to swing-shift work schedules. And pilots and air travelers who cross time zones often report a period during which they suffer physical complaints until they get readjusted (jet lag). Interestingly, it is easier to adjust to flying west than east. This is perhaps because of the tendency to drift toward a 25-hour cycle when we don't have a regular light

cycle (Graeber, 1994). Other cycles also influence our behavior. Women's menstrual cycles can affect mood. We have a temperature cycle that is warmest in the afternoon and coolest at night. And all of us probably have other cycles that are not understood completely. Understanding the biological rhythms of an individual may help psychologists understand human behavior more completely.


William C. Dement

William C. Dement was born in 1928 in Wenatchee, Washington. He decided on a career in medicine and, as a second-year medical student, was working in Nathaniel Kleitman's sleep research laboratory at the University of

Chicago in 1953, when rapid eye movements were discovered. Dement first used the term REM, which is now standard nomenclature in sleep research. William Dement earned his M.D. degree from the University of Chicago in 1955, and his Ph.D. degree in physiology in 1957. In 1963 he established the sleep laboratory at Stanford University, and in 1970 he established the Stanford University Sleep Disorders Clinic. Dement started the publication Sleep Reviews and has written hundreds of scientific papers on sleep and dreaming.

Currently, Dement is professor of psychiatry at the Stanford University Medical School. As director of the sleep laboratory, he is researching the problems that plague millions of people when they sleep. He has contributed significantly to our knowledge of the altered state of consciousness in which we spend a third of our lives.


Culture and Sleeping

In many societies, people awake in early morning, stay awake during the entire day, and go to sleep late at night. This pattern is not universal, however. In many tropical regions of the world, people stop all activities in the early afternoon in order to take a siesta, or nap for a couple of hours (Webb & Dinges, 1989). This cultural practice permits people to escape working during the hottest time of the day.

Another cultural variation in sleeping habits focuses on family members sleeping together. In Western cultures, such as the United States, parents train young children to sleep alone in order to teach them independence.

However, in many other societies, children are encouraged to sleep with their parents to promote group interdependence and cooperation. Culture may also affect our dreams. A study by Domino (1986) examined dreaming in older adults in Mexico, Spain, Venezuela, and the United States.

People in the United States were more likely to remember their dreams than the people in the three Hispanic cultures. Domino argued that this might be because Hispanic cultures tend to view dreams as omens that are often negative.


Study of Dream Content College students were surveyed for their most common dreams by Griffith and his colleagues (1958). Their study found 83 percent of the students reported dreams about falling and 77 percent reported dreams in which they were being attacked. A large percentage of dreams involved school, sexual behavior, eating, being frightened, or having a loved one die. Fire was included in 41 percent of the reports, while failing an exam was in 39 percent. Other significant topics included finding money, swimming, snakes, being nude, and death. Many of these topics are probably items of concern in

students' lives. In a 1988 study, I asked over 200 college students what they dreamed about. Although many of the topics were similar to Griffith's 1958 findings, there were some interesting differences. Falling (males 65 percent, females 86

percent) and being attacked (males 68 percent, females 89 percent), were frequently mentioned, but so were romantic situations (males 65 percent, females 86 percent), and being with family and friends (males 53 percent, females 81 percent). Sexual experiences were popular, but the older study's gender difference disappeared (in 1958--males 93 percent, females 36 percent; in 1988--males 76 percent, females 72 percent). I also found that students in 1988 appeared to dream less about school, teachers, and studying (males 41 percent, females 70 percent) than in 1958.


Lucid Dreams

The popular movie series Nightmare on Elm Street, in which people fight evil creatures in their dreams, was designed to entertain us. A line of research suggests, however, that there might be some truth in the premise that we can gain control over what we dream about. Have you ever been aware of the fact that you were dreaming? Some people report having lucid dreams, in which they seem to be aware while they are actually dreaming. Stephen LaBerge (1986) studied lucid dreaming by interacting with his subjects while they were dreaming. For example, he

taught subjects eye movements to indicate they were aware that they were experiencing a dream. Some lucid dreamers report that they can alter the course of their dreams. LaBerge (1992) suggested that becoming aware of lucid dreaming could help people become more creative and better able to solve problems. He reported that lucid dreams could be induced by delivering light cues during REM sleep (LaBerge & Levitan, 1995). It is also possible that people who have nightmares could learn to control the terrifying

events to reduce the severity of the dreams (Gackenbach & Bosveld, 1989 Drugs Used in Therapy of Mental Disorders

A wide variety of drugs have been used to treat mental disorders. Here we review the major drug categories: antianxiety drugs, antidepressant drugs, and

antipsychotic drugs. We discuss drug therapy further in chapter 14, "Therapy."

The first benzodiazepine, chloridiazepoxide (Librium), was marketed in 1960. Librium, Valium (diazepan), and Xanax (alprazolam) are among the most widely prescribed drugs in this country as antianxiety drugs, useful for treating anxiety, panic and phobias, and sometimes insomnia. The

benzodiazepines facilitate GABA neurotransmission (Zorumski & Isenberg, 1991). Excessive use of these depressant drugs can produce such symptoms

as disorientation and aggression. The additive effects of benzodiazepines and alcohol are disruptions of visual and motor coordination needed for driving. The antidepressant drugs are used to treat depression. Like other stimulants, they increase the levels of neurotransmitters, including norepinephrine and serotonin. Two early classes of antidepressants include

monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors (such as Parnate and Nardil) and the tricyclic antidepressants, including Tofranil and Elavil. The first serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), Prozac, was

approved in 1988. Other SSRIs include Zoloft and Paxil. The newest antidepressant drugs include the dual-action drugs (such as Serzone and Remeron), which increase serotonin or norepinephrine in various ways

(Kasper, 1996). Because these drugs do not produce euphoria in healthy individuals, there is little recreational abuse of them (Julien, 1998). The antipsychotic drugs appear to alter the functioning of dopamine in the brain

and are used to treat psychoses, severe disruptions of psychological functioning (such as schizophrenia). Psychotic patients who have been treated with antipsychotic drugs act calmer and less anxious than they had been. Chlorpromazine (trade name Thorazine), which helped to create a dramatic change in the way psychotic patients were treated, was first marketed in the United States in 1955. These drugs are not usually used for recreational purposes.



The biofeedback approach to altering consciousness usually involves the use of a device that permits the individual to monitor and influence one or more

bodily processes that are not normally subject to voluntary control. Essentially, the person is responding to his or her own internal biological cues.


Neal Miller was one of the pioneers in this field. He reported the results of an experiment (Miller & Banuazizi, 1968) in which rats learned to increase or

decrease their heart rates when rewarded for doing so. Miller (1973) also conducted research on the ability of humans to control various "involuntary"

internal biological functions. In a typical biofeedback session, a person is taught to recognize the

effects of the autonomic nervous system on bodily functions. For example, the subject might monitor his or her own blood pressure by listening to a machine that buzzes when blood pressure increases, then beeps when blood pressure decreases. The subject tries to become aware of the bodily feelings that accompany the higher and lower blood pressure. With practice, the

subject can raise or lower blood pressure at will, even without the monitoring device. This is accomplished by learning to control the tension in the skeletal

muscles (McGuigan, 1984).

One commonly practiced form of biofeedback uses an EEG monitoring device that permits a person to generate alpha brain waves of 8 to 12 cycles per second. By generating such brain waves to the exclusion of all others, a person can enter a type of consciousness known as the alpha state, which is characterized by a relaxed, tranquil, composed, yet fully aware state of mind.

Another form of biofeedback is electromyographic, or EMG relaxation. In one procedure, the subject focuses on the muscles in the forehead and attempts to reduce the tension activity in these muscles (Friedlund, Fowler, &

Pritchard, 1980). A number of studies have shown that EMG biofeedback is about as effective as relaxation training for relieving headaches. People have been taught to gain conscious control over a wide variety of

processes, including their own heart rates, blood pressure, temperature, and other bodily functions. The biofeedback method can be used as a therapeutic

technique for treating emotional, behavioral, psychosomatic, and some organic problems. Tension headaches, vomiting, anxiety, and ulcers, have

been treated through biofeedback (Roberts, 1985). Ham and Packard (1996) reported biofeedback to be effective in patients with posttraumatic stress and headache.





Psychology a Connectext 4th edition, Terry F. Pettijohn

Discovering Psychology, Don Hockenbury & Sandra Hockenbury

Social Psychology, 5th edition, Deaux Wrightsman