Lecture_Notes_Consciousness_and_Sleep.docx - Consciousness...

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Consciousness and Sleep Consciousness Consciousness is usually defined as our awareness of ourselves and our surroundings, or awareness of our internal stimuli and external stimuli. If we think about our day, we spend much of our time either dealing with, altering, or in some way managing the various states of awareness we experience. We are consciousness creatures! One way of thinking about consciousness is to imagine a continuum of awareness with “unconscious” or totally unaware at one end of the continuum and “over-conscious” or super- aware at the other end. Most of time we spend our waking hours in the very middle. Here we, are alert and aware of what’s happening. We pay ‘enough’ attention to get by and our consciousness ebbs and flows in small ways. We are neither drowsy nor on edge. But, if we drif a little toward the unconscious end, we might start to get a little drowsy or tired. We lose a little awareness. We are not as sharp. Then, if we drif a little more, we might fall asleep. And while we are asleep, we will go deeper into unconsciousness through very distinct sleep stages. What might be a level of conscious that is deeper than regular sleep? What about anesthesia? It is designed to put us “way under” so that we aren’t aware enough to feel pain and or wake up during surgery. You could also consider a coma as a state of consciousness that is deeper than sleep and about as low as one can go before death. Now let’s consider states of consciousness that are on the other end of the awareness continuum, the over-conscious side. If we were to drink a cup or two of coffee, our alertness and awareness would move out of the middle and a little closer to the over-conscious end. If we were to experience a very exciting event or encounter a threatening situation, our awareness of ourselves and environment would be heightened; we would be more “awake.” In fact, some of us intentionally choose thrill-inducing activities to feel that increased level of consciousness as it can be stimulating and exciting. And at the very far end of over- consciousness, we might consider spiritual or once-in-a-lifetime experiences that temporarily elevate our consciousness to where we feel like we are having an “out of body” experience. So, the main point here is understanding that consciousness is that thing we call awareness, and it is constantly changing throughout our day based on experiences, on physical energy level, and nutrition or substances. Consciousness is also essential for survival and for recognizing our needs and the demands of our environment so that we can respond and react to those demands. In Consciousness research, there is this concept called Dual Processing. It states that we at any given time are operating on two “roads” of awareness. In other words, we are doing all this mental processing (decisions, associations, judgements, choices, etc.) simultaneously on a high road and a low. The High Road of consciousness is what we are aware of. It is the path of
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  • Spring '18
  • Steven E Wampler
  • REM, Research About Sleep

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