Consciousness Essay

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.

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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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