The biological approach is the study of how our
behaviour and experiences in life are caused by what’s happening in our nervous
system and how our genes affect them too. It looks for the physical causes of
every day behaviour such as sleep and dreams and how they are being caused by
Circadian Rhythms are physical mental and behavioural
changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. For healthy people with a good sleeping
pattern circadian rhythms will maintain a day and night. Zeitgeber is the name
given to things that effect our circadian rhythms. Zeitgebers are triggers from
the environment. A few examples are sunlight, darkness and temperature.
Hypothalamus and suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is the part of our brain which
controls circadian rhythms. This part of our brain will send signals to other
parts of the brain, so our body knows when it is day and night and when we
should be wakening and going to sleep. The SCN will also send the message to
our brain so our body will release the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is a
hormone released into our bodies to start the sleep cycle. Our circadian
rhythms can be disrupted by the things in our environment and our lifestyles.
Disruptions to circadian rhythms are shift work and jet lag.
During our sleep our brains go through different
stages there is five different stages to our sleep. Light sleep is the first
stage of our sleep process. This stage of sleep usually only lasts around 5 to
10 minutes. During light sleep our brain produces theta waves. People in light
sleep can be easily awakened and some even say they weren’t sleeping at all.
The second stage to our sleep is called moderately light sleep. This stage our
brains gives off brain waves known as delta waves. During this stage your body
temperature will decrease, and your heart rate will begin to slow down.
Moderately light sleep will last about 20 minutes. Stage three is Transitional
sleep the stage between light sleep and a very deep sleep. Your brain produces
delta waves during this stage. It will now be very difficult to awaken anyone
in this stage. Stage four is known as deep sleep this will last around 30
minutes. During deep sleep slow brains waves known as delta waves will now
appear. During stage 4 is when things such as sleep walking can occur. Stage 5
is REM sleep during this stage your brain gives off similar brain waves as it
does to a person who is wide awake, but the person is actually fast asleep you
can check this by watching their eye movements 60 to 70 minutes into them going
to sleep. Their eyes will be fluttering in short bursts. REM sleep lasts about
A strength to the biological approach to sleep is
that it helped produce many drug treatments but a weakness to the approach is
that it doesn’t take our experiences in life into consideration.
Czeilsler (1990) done a research study to help night
shift workers find a routine to adapt to daytime sleeping. He done this by
getting a group of 8 men in their 20s, who had never done nightshift and didn’t
have any sleeping disorders. One group of men were exposed to ordinary
nightshift conditions and weren’t told to go into darkness during the day. The
second group were exposed to bright lights during there shift and told to stay
in darkness during the day. The result of this research was that the second
groups body clock extended by nine hours. They also managed to do tasks with
much more concentration than the first group. A strength to this research was
by using a day/night schedule it was ok to go home when it was light outside.
The weakness though is that 8 men is only a small amount of people to carry out
The psychoanalytic approach was an approach by a man
named Sigma Freud. He believed that our personalities were made up of the
conscious and unconscious mind. The conscious part of our minds being the part
we are unaware of like being able to speak about memories but happy ones or
ordinary ones. The unconscious part of our mind being the part we don’t know
about where our bad experiences lie and sexual fantasy we keep are.
Freud believed the dreams we have at night came from
the unconscious part of the mind. He said that dreams had two types of content
latent content and manifest content. The latent content is the meaning of the
symbol which you dream about. These symbols were often related to something
sexual. The manifest content is the actual storyline or subject matter of the
Dreamwork is the process where the manifest content
is changed into an underlying wish we have been thinking about. The reason for
dreamwork is so our brains can change the underlying wish into something that
we can deal with instead of something that is going to cause a disruption to
our sleep. Dreams are therefore disguised to act as a psychological safety valve,
so we can act out forbidden behaviours without causing any harm and to avoid
There are five aspects to the purpose of dreams and
how they work. One being displacement changing an object or person inti
something or someone else. Two being projection this being when we propel our
desires and wants onto someone else. Three is symbolization where we add
objects from the latent content of the dream. Four condensations are by joining
two of our thoughts together in a dream. Five rationalizations where the dream
organizes the dream into a more logical way for us to understand.
A weakness to Freuds dream theory is that he cannot
answer why sometimes our wishes in our dreams are hidden and sometimes they are
not. It is also not possible to gather evidence to support this. A strength is
that still to this day Freud has a big impact on everyday culture.
Freud carried out a case study on a three-year-old
boy known as little Hans. This case study was carried out over a period of
years. Freud got all the necessary information needed from the boy’s father who
was a big follower on all of Freuds work. Freud only ever met the boy one time.
During the first years it came into light that the boy started taking an
interest in his penis and would ask many questions about it. He would have many
dreams involving penises too. During this time little Hans also started
developing a fear of horses and little Hans father would write in detail
explaining how little Hans thought the horse would bite him in the street.
Freud concluded that the interest in penis and the phobia of horses was
representing a fear of his father. Little Hans would often sleep in the same
bed as his mother and enjoyed doing so. Freud believed that little Hans was
going through Oedipus complex. Oedipus complex being a desire for a parent of
the opposite sex.
This study was
good as it was done in little Hans natural environment, but as little Hans
father was a big follower in Freuds work a lot of the information provided
could be biased. The information given by little Hans father could have been
included to fit Freuds theory.
A sleep disorder that can affect a person is sleep apnoea.
Sleep apnoea is when the walls of your throat close and your muscles relax. It
is diagnosed as sleep apnoea if the throat closes and the airway is blocked for
ten seconds or more. Having sleep apnoea can have a big impact on someone’s
daily life and can then lead to a person developing other health conditions.
When someone starts to develop sleep apnoea it will usually be a partner or
family member who will notice the signs before the person does. Symptoms of the
condition include snoring, headaches, noisy or loud breathing and having
episodes of gasping for air during sleep. Causes of condition can include a
person being overweight, side effects of sleeping pills, alcohol and smoking.
This condition can be treated if a person changes their lifestyle i.e. healthy
eating. In some cases, using a continuous positive airway pressure device while
sleeping can help the airways from closing.
Research into sleep apnoea showed that it affects up
to 18 million Americans with 10 million not even being diagnosed with the
condition. The condition affects about 4 percent of me and only 2 percent of woman.
It can also affect children. Up to 50 percent of people with sleep apnoea will
also suffer from high blood pressure.
sleep and dreams revision handout-Elaine Wilson
sleep, dreams and disorders revision handout – new Lanarkshire