Consciousness Essay, Research Paper

Numerous factors determine when and why you feel tired, full of energy, and

hungry. A person’s state of consciousness and awareness varies throughout the

day and depends on a person’s activity, environment, and time clock. As a human

we have what is called circadian rhythms, which simply explains our daily highs

and lows. An example of your basic up and down rhythm would be the sleep/wake

cycle. Sunlight regulates the sleep/wake cycle by causing the suprachiasmatic

nucleus to decrease its production of melatonin in the early morning and

increase it in the evening. Melatonin is a hormone that if increased in blood

levels makes an individual drowsy or tired and if decreased will make them more

alert. Certain individuals will experience that their biological clock is often

out of sync. This can be explained sometimes from either jet lag, working the

night shifts or graveyards, and Monday-morning fog. Sleep in itself has its own

biological patterns and rhythms. Hans Berger introduced the

electroencephalograph to us so that we would be able to measure the patterns and

rhythms of sleep through a record called an EEG. Two different patterns of sleep

are REM sleep and NREM sleep. The NREM sleep actually has four stages involved

in it. During the first stage a person becomes slightly drowsy because of the

mixture of alpha and theta brain waves. At the second stage, an individual tends

to have bursts of brain activity for a short time, which in terms are called

sleep spindles. The second stage also involves theta brain waves and the

beginning of delta waves. The third and fourth stages of NREM sleep are often

referred to as "slow-wave sleep". Both of these stages are measured by

the amount of delta brain wave activity. During REM sleep, the sleeper is

unconsciously active. His eyelids may flutter, he may have increased heart rate,

and occasional muscle spasms. The two basic sleep theories are the evolutionary

and restorative theories of sleep. The evolutionary theory of sleep suggests

that our sleep patterns are based on or defined by evolution. The second theory

simply offers that sleeping restores and rejuvenates the body through

physiological processes. Sleeping disorders have a variety of effects on a

person. Insomnia simply disallows an individual to actually fall into deep sleep

and feel rested in the morning. Sleepwalking and night terrors are much more

common in childhood then in the adult life and occur during the deepest stages

of NREM sleep. When a person repeatedly stops breathing during his sleep it is

called sleep apnea. This sleeping disorder usually tends to occur in older more

heavy weight men. Another sleeping disorder is narcolepsy, which sends an

individual in an instant phase of deep REM sleep regardless of where they are

and whom they are with. Dreaming is yet another state of consciousness. A dream

is simply an unfolding episode of mental images that involve characters and

events. Dreams usually tend to occur during REM sleep but can occur during NREM

sleep as well. We dream on a variety of topics, subjects, and individuals. No

dream can be exactly interpreted or defined, therefore people have always been

fascinated with what, why, and how we dream. An unpleasant and almost terrifying

type of dream is a nightmare. This is a very vivid, almost real like state that

produces quick anxiety and a sense of helplessness in the situation. Another

type of dream would be the lucid dream in which the dreamer knows he is dreaming

and can often guide the course of his dream. Hypnosis is a very controversial

state of awareness because of its changes to an individual’s perception, memory,

and behavior. Not everyone can be hypnotized. The most susceptible people are

those who approach it with a positive attitude. When subjects are deeply

hypnotized they have said to experience detachment from their bodies or extreme

relaxation which changes their subjective experience of consciousness. When a

posthypnotic suggestion is made during hypnosis the subject will act on that for

a short time after being hypnotized and sometimes up to a couple of days after

the session. Ernest Hilgard suggested that while hypnotized a person experiences

dissociation that splits consciousness into two or more streams of mental

activity. Psychoactive drugs are chemical substances that alter moods,

perceptions, as well as a person’s conscious state. After abusing a psychoactive

drug for a period of time your body will become physically adapted to it and

create a tolerance for it and in return a person will increase their intake of

that drug to feel the same effects. When an individual does decide to quit

abusing, he will generally experience withdrawal symptoms. The four categories

of basic psychoactive drugs are depressants, opiates, stimulants, and

psychedelic drugs. Depressants tend to depress and slow down brain activity.

Alcohol is considered a depressant drug, though unlike other drugs this one is

legal. Other types of depressants would be the barbiturates, tranquilizers, and

inhalants. Barbiturates and tranquilizers reduce anxiety and increase sleep.

Inhalants are chemical substances that when inhaled alter a persons state of

consciousness. The second category of drugs is the opiates that produce euphoria

in individuals. Types of these drugs include heroin, morphine, and even a

prescription painkiller called Demerol. The third category of the psychoactive

drugs is the stimulants. Caffeine and nicotine are included in this category and

tend to play a large role in today’s society. Individuals drink coffee, sodas,

tea, and smoke cigarettes often. Out of the large variety of abused drugs, this

is the most widely abused, for the fact that neither if them is illegal. Another

form of stimulants is cocaine and amphetamines. Both of these drugs tend to have

the same affects being that they suppress appetite, intensify euphoria, mental

alertness, and self-confidence. Soon after the "high" wears off,

strong feelings of depression are exchanged for those of excitement, which makes

this drug, a very addictive one. The last type of drug is the psychedelic drugs

or LSD. These drugs make a person generally hallucinate, and depending on the

person’s personality, the outcomes will vary differently. A person’s state of

consciousness will vary from each person through his or her activity, dreams,

and even choices. Every one of us has a biological clock as well as circadian

rhythms, though we choose to allow it to work properly or to force it to be out

of sync with the rest of time.

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