Chris D. Meletis, N.D., and Nieske Zabriskie, N.D.
Adequate sleep is essential for healthy functioning of the 75 trillion cells that comprise the human body. Sleep disorders are a common complaint and can make a great impact on quality of life. Common sleep disorders include primary insomnia, restless legs syndrome (RLS), and sleep-disordered breathing. Other factors such as illness, medications, and psychosocial problems also contribute to development of sleep disorders. According to the 2002 National Health Interview Survey analysis, more than 1.6 million adult Americans use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to treat insomnia or trouble with sleeping. 1
Healthy sleep includes two types that alternate throughout the night. The first type is known as slow-wave sleep, or non–rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and comprises approximately 75% of total sleep. The second type is REM sleep, which comprises 25% of total sleep, lasts 5–30 minutes, and usually recurs approximately every 90 minutes. REM sleep is characterized by an increase in brain activity with active dreaming, decreased muscle tone, variable heart and respiratory rates, and REMs.
Normal sleep stages show a progression of changes in brain waves. Stages 1 and 2 are considered to be light sleep, and stages 3 and 4 are deep or slow-wave sleep. As stage 1 of sleep progresses, alpha waves decrease and are replaced by bursts of alpha-wave sleep spindles and then are replaced by theta waves in stages 2 and 3. Stage 4 is characterized by a predominance of delta waves (which also occur during a significant percentage of stage 3), followed by REM sleep, which produces beta waves, similar to those of an alert and awake person.