Functions of sleep architecture and the concept of protective fields

Author(s): Voss U

Abstract

This article focuses on the function of human sleep architecture and, where it adjoins, on the ultradian rhythm of NREM and REM cycles. In healthy adult human sleep, NREM and REM sleep succeed each other in 90-110 min intervals. This ultradian pattern of NREM/REM succession is cyclical. Sleep architecture relates to the shifting between sleep stages of varying sleep intensity and arousal thresholds. It has been found to follow a typical but non-cyclical pattern throughout the night. In the first third of the night, light sleep alternates predominantly with slow wave sleep (SWS). As sleep progresses, the amount of SWS typically decreases and REM sleep increases. In the last third of the night, light sleep almost exclusively alternates with REM sleep. The author postulates that one function of the non-cyclical succession of sleep stages is the erection and maintenance of a protective field around the sleeper. A protective field is to be understood as an area of relative safety, minimizing the chances for an intruder to enter the field without detection. The frequent shifts between sleep phases with low and high arousal thresholds allow a periodic screening of the sleep environment for danger signals. The relevant literature on sleep architecture, ultradian rhythms and its determinants is reviewed and the implications of the concept of protective fields are discussed.

Similar Articles

Self-report and polysomnographic measures of sleep in women with irritable bowel syndrome

Author(s): Heitkemper M, Charman AB, Shaver J, Lentz MJ, Jarrett ME

Hyperarousal and insomnia: state of the science

Author(s): Bonnet MH, Arand DL

Increased urine catecholamines and cortisol in women with irritable bowel syndrome

Author(s): Heitkemper M, Jarrett M, Cain K, Shaver J, Bond E, et al.

Salivary alpha-amylase as a measure of endogenous adrenergic activity

Author(s): Chatterton RT Jr, Vogelsong KM, Lu YC, Ellman AB, Hudgens GA

Heart rate variability: standards of measurement, physiological interpretation and clinical use

Author(s): Task Force of the European Society of Cardiology and the North American Society of Pacing and Electrophysiology

Testing a tripartite model: I

Author(s): Watson D, Weber K, Assenheimer JS, Clark LA, Strauss ME, et al.

The measurement of fatigue: a new instrument

Author(s): Schwartz JE, Jandorf L, Krupp LB

The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index: a new instrument for psychiatric practice and research

Author(s): Buysse DJ, Reynolds CF 3rd, Monk TH, Berman SR, Kupfer DJ

Thermoregulation in women

Author(s): Stephenson LA, Kolka MA