Sleepy-eyed? Have your questions answered

    How does sleep deprivation affect your brain and immune system?

    — Hilary, Eleanor Roosevelt College

    Sleep is defined as a period of rest for the body and mind, during which decision-making and consciousness are impartial and the body functions are partially suspended. It is a behavioral state marked by characteristic immobile posture and diminished but readily-reversible responses to external stimuli.

    The process of sleep occurs in three distinct stages. The first, non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep, occurs within the first 90 minutes of sleep. During NREM sleep, the body is at a restful state that supports the recuperative functions assigned to sleep.

    The second stage is a series of cycles alternating NREM sleep with Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. As the number of cycles increases, the length of NREM sleep decreases and REM sleep increases. The length of this stage in sleep varies with each individual and is affected by state of physical health, psychological state and certain drugs.

    During the final stage the body enters total REM sleep. At the end of the night most of the sleep is REM sleep, which is when most dreams occur.

    While everyone dreams every night, many do not remember dreaming; most people are aware, however, that they dream right before waking. REM sleep provides a period of recuperation of mental activities and preparation for wakefulness. Scientists believe the increased metabolic activity in the brain during REM sleep positively affects the mind’s ability to be receptive to information and the ability to assimilate it.

    Your body needs both NREM and REM sleep in order to keep the brain and body functioning properly. Studies conducted on the activity of immune cells prior to and following sleep deprivation have shown a 25-percent reduction in the activity of those cells. Keep in mind that sleeping pills can interfere with REM sleep.

    How do I best treat burns?

    — Mark, Revelle College

    First aid for a burn depends on the cause. A person with electrical contact or chemical exposure resulting in a burn should seek emergency care immediately. Burns due to hot objects are the most common.

    For hot-object burns, run cold water over the burn for 15 minutes to avoid ulcerations (bubbling of the skin). Cocoa butter, glycerin or petroleum can be applied over the burn to combat dryness. These can be applied as often as needed. Aerosols, such as Solarcaine and Dermoplast, can be applied to relieve pain. If the skin has been broken, an antibacterial such as Polysporin, Betadine or Hydrogen Peroxide should be applied.

    Pain resulting from a minor sunburn can be treated with aerosols mentioned previously, but only if not too severe. A general rule to remember is that self-treatable burns are painful.

    Lack of pain does not mean the burn is minor. Instead, it does not hurt because the nerves have burned away. Do not use the absence of pain as a basis for determining if immediate care is needed.

    Those under the age of two and those afflicted in the face or genital area should seek immediate care. If your burn looks or feels worse, or if it has not improved within seven days, seek the advice of a doctor or pharmacist.

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