Opened in 1996, the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center Sleep Center is an American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) accredited full-service facility that provides comprehensive diagnosis and treatment of the more than 80 different types of sleep disorders. The laboratory is designed to conduct overnight and daytime sleep studies to help diagnose a wide range of sleep disorders, from insomnia and sleep apnea to snoring, narcolepsy, night terrors and sleepwalking.
The treatment team includes doctors with expertise in many areas of medicine, including sleep disorders, pulmonology, otolaryngology, cardiology, psychology, psychiatry, neurology and dentistry.
Your doctor will determine the nature of the underlying disorders and what additional testing, such as a sleep study, is required. Then, depending on the results of the studies, other specialists are brought in as needed to develop a personalized treatment plan.
Contrary to popular belief, sleep is an active, organized process. How and when we sleep is controlled by a number of factors. These include factors under our control, such as getting enough sleep, and factors beyond our control. Chief among these is our internal biologic clock that regulates our biologic rhythm (also called a circadian rhythm) over a 24-hour period.
Sleep also has an internal organization governed by different areas of the brain. Sleep actually occurs in stages, which occur at different times during the night. There are two major divisions of our sleep state. These are called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep. Non-REM sleep is in turn further divided into four different stages (one through four), with stages three and four often referred to as "deep sleep." In adults, non-REM sleep takes up around 80% of the night, and REM sleep 20%. However, REM sleep does not happen in one large block. Actually, we go into REM sleep in cycles of about 90 minutes. Meaning, REM sleep occurs around once every 90 minutes.
Non-REM and REM Sleep
During non-REM sleep, many of the restorative functions of sleep occur. Hormones are released that help the body rebuild itself from damage done during the day. During REM sleep, memories and thoughts from the day are processed. REM sleep is the stage in which vivid dreams occur. The purpose of dreaming is not well understood, but it probably relates to processing mental information that was received during the day. During REM sleep, we usually lose the use of our limb muscles. Thus, we have an active mind in an inactive body. This normal loss of muscle function in REM (or dream) sleep helps prevent us from acting out our dreams.
Different sleep disorders may take place during different stages of sleep. For example, sleepwalking and night terrors, common problems in children, usually occur in non-REM sleep. There are disorders of REM sleep in which the normal loss of muscle tone is absent. Affected patients may act out violent dreams and harm themselves or others.
How Much Sleep Do I Need?
There is actually a wide range of sleep time that is considered "normal." While the average normal amount of sleep is around 7.5 hours per night, there are some people who function just fine on five hours per night, and some who require as much as nine hours per night. The key is to find the right amount for you. The best way to tell is by seeing how well you function during the day.
For example, if after six hours of sleep you feel refreshed in the morning and awake during your daylight hours, then you don't need more than that. But if you need nine hours a night to feel refreshed and to function well during the day, then that is what your individual requirement is and sleeping the "normal" amount of 7.5 hours per night will actually leave you sleep deprived.
If you are getting what you consider to be enough sleep but still aren't feeling refreshed, then you might have an organic sleep disorder and should consider seeking professional consultation.
For more information or to arrange for a sleep study, call 410-787-4768.