We began with a simple system of Alpha waves being dominant in a resting brain, specifically with eyes closed, while Beta waves are faster and represent the thinking, problem solving activity of a brain when your eyes are open.
While that simplistic paradigm did not necessarily conform consistently to reality, it was a beginning place.
Now let’s add two more gears to the transmission. When someone goes to sleep, their brain activity slows down initially to Theta waves which are associated with REM sleep, and eventually to Delta waves, the slowest of them all. This is deep, dreamless sleep, with essentially no body movement.
Again, the generic paradigm is deceptively simple, but in reality, Delta sleep occasionally has Alpha waves riding on top of the Delta waves!
Now right from the start, this is a bit odd. Why Alpha waves, and not Theta? It would seem rather commonplace for some of the waves from the previous sector to be intruding into the deep Delta sleep. But why are Alpha waves, not Theta intruding in the Delta cadence? And why does Alpha just ride over the Delta waves and not replace them altogether?
The short answer is, the scientists don’t know!
I don’t know either, but let’s have some fun speculating. It’s not fattening, taxable or illegal, and sometimes it is even productive.
The sleep researchers are rather united in condemning the Alpha waves during Delta sleep. In fact, they use the pejorative “Alpha intrusion” to define this dynamic. The standard logic is that Alpha waves cut into the quality of the Delta sleep, and a person wakes up quite tired even though they have supposedly slept deeply.
There have been a lot of studies of people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, fibromyalgia and similar conditions, which document the consistent presence of Alpha intrusions. The common logic is that because those naughty Alpha waves are intruding where they don’t belong, the person does not sleep well for protracted periods of time, and it contributes in some significant degree to their ill health.
While on the surface it is a plausible paradigm, it has not been proven because they don’t have tests showing that a large group of otherwise healthy people had sustained Alpha intrusion sleep and subsequently developed these debilitating diseases.
Furthermore, one bright researcher suggested that the diseases caused the Alpha intrusion, not the other way around. He pointed out that with fibromyalgia, there are consistent pain flashes throughout the night, and it could well be that each incidence of pain causes an Alpha intrusion into the Delta sleep.
What has fascinated me is the lack of discussion of what causes the Alpha waves to be generated during that period of sleep. There is a lot of documentation that it happens and there is subjective reporting that people are not as rested after Alpha/Delta sleep than pure Delta. Note my comment of subjective reporting. You cannot measure the quality of rest as precisely as you can measure the existence of brain waves.
Now consider all of the people who get good ideas while they sleep. Thomas Edison was legendary for taking a nap when he was stumped, and having a notepad by his bed so he could jot down the answer as soon as he woke up. What brain waves was he using, in which cycle of sleep to solve those problems? Analogously, what are we using when we solve problems at night?
Is it possible that instead of Alpha waves playing a destructive role by intruding unceremoniously into the Delta domain, that actually, Delta is graciously providing an uncluttered workshop for Alpha waves to solve the great problems of your life?
Oh sure, there are people who take their worries to bed with them and chew on them all night long. We all know that is not healthy. But if you measured healthy, productive people with Alpha intrusion in their Delta sleep, is it possible that they would be more creative, ingenious, effective problem solvers in the grand mystery of living life well?
Has anyone checked?
Are we absolutely sure that ALL Alpha intrusion is a really bad, disruptive thing?
No. There are a lot of assumptions relative to Alpha intrusions.
So let’s recap.
One researcher suggests that body pain causes Alpha intrusion. Plausible. I wish he would go test his theory for us. It would be appreciated.
I used basic common sense and proposed a soul explanation for Alpha intrusions. If we are not problem solving during the Delta phase of our sleep, when it is? During Theta with all the REM? That is certainly possible, but I have not found any studies that differentiate between the brain’s problem solving skills in Theta vs. Delta, nor any showing problem solving with and without Alpha intrusions.
Now if we have a body and a soul paradigm, what about the spirit being involved somehow?
I thought you would never ask!
Track with me through this sequence. The following are quotes from our highly revered (or is it reviled?) scribes at Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha_wave
“Alpha waves are present at different stages of the wake-sleep cycle. The most widely-researched is during the relaxed mental state, where the subject is at rest with eyes closed, but is not tired or asleep. This alpha activity is centered in the occipital lobe, and is presumed to originate there, although there has been recent speculation that it instead has a thalamic origin.”
Translation: when your thoughts are drifting, with your eyes closed, your dominant Alpha waves are at the base of your skull, in the back.
As a point of reference, loosely speaking, the further up and forward in your brain the activity is, the more sophisticated it is. So you do your finest thinking behind your forehead, and the stuff that goes on around the base of the skull is, well . . . not exactly Nobel Prize winning thinking. Let’s just leave it at that.
Now, watch this progression.
“The second occurrence of alpha wave activity is during REM sleep. As opposed to the awake form of alpha activity, this form is located in a frontal-central location in the brain.”
“Frontal-central location in the brain?” You mean as soon as I go to sleep, I start generating Alpha waves from the exact location we call the Seat of Dominion where the human spirit and the Holy Spirit hang out?!
What an amazing coincidence.
Wikipedia adds the following dab of profoundness: “The purpose of alpha activity during REM sleep has yet to be fully understood.”
“The third occurrence of alpha wave activity is the alpha-delta or slow-wave (SWS) state. This activity spreads across the brain in an anterior-posterior gradient.”
Translation: “. . . anterior-posterior gradient” means that it starts in the front of the brain and spreads over the whole brain until it gets to the back.
Alpha intrusion in Delta sleep originates in the Seat of Dominion!
Now let’s refocus.
One researcher suggested that Alpha intrusion could be caused by the body’s aches and pains. I proposed an alternative scenario, namely that plain old ordinary soul thinking could possibly be involved. And Wikipedia graciously informed us that in sleep mode, Alpha waves are generated by the Seat of Dominion (well, not exactly their words) and therefore might possibly have something to do with the human spirit.
Now far be it from me to leave anything neat and tidy if it can possibly be made complicated. Just to stay in top form, here are two other alternatives.
What if it is not the human spirit, but the Holy Spirit that is launching forays from the Seat of Dominion? And what if the Holy Spirit is creating “intrusions” of the non-cuddly type?
Unfortunately we don’t have any comparative sleep studies between people with a clear conscience and the other tribe, but having the Holy Spirit harassing you all night long could explain some of the less than energizing results from most of the Alpha/Delta sleep tests.
And clearly the same would be true if the Alpha intrusion came compliments of an unholy spirit. Frankly I have met a few people whose Seat of Dominion was occupied by non-human spirits of the malevolent kind.
For some strange reason, Wikipedia has not documented any brain wave sleep studies comparing and contrasting a bunch of ordinary pre-Christians to a batch of well sorted out, big spirited people from the Sapphire tribe whose human spirit is joyously and solidly in control of the Seat of Dominion.
What a pity.
Clearly we don’t know what this Alpha intrusion in the Delta wave sleep cycle is about, but there certainly are some fascinating coincidences in the scientific studies that have been done to date. Hopefully some more aggressive constructs will be tested in the near term.
Copyright January 2013 by Arthur Burk
Written during a retreat on Mercy land