Why do we need to “Sleep”?

  I have seen so many in this new generation, unwilling to take the time to benefit from sleep but unfortunately, they do not know about the consequences or perhaps they do not believe that anything can happen to them. I am going to try to demonstrate in some words, the importance of a good night of Sleep.

Sleep is a naturally recurring state of mind and body, characterized by altered consciousness and reduced interactions with the surroundings. Sleep occurs in repeating periods with alternate (REM) rapid eye movement and (non-REM) including a virtual paralysis of the body. A feature of Sleep is the ability to dream which for many represent a fantasy.

While sleeping, most of the body’s systems are in an anabolic state helping to restore the auto-immune system as well as the skeletal, nervous and muscular skeletal systems. These vital systems maintain mood, memory, cognitive function and play a large role in the endocrine and immune systems. Humans may suffer from sleep disorders notably insomnia, apnea, narcolepsy sleepwalking etc. Let us evaluate some generalities about Sleep:

The most pronounced physiological changes in sleep occur in the brain. Many humans will wake up with an alarm however, some can reliably wake themselves at a specific time with no need for an alarm. There are some interesting facts demonstrating that “Siesta” habits have recently been associated with a 37% decrease in coronary mortality probably due to at reduced cardiovascular stress mediated by the daytime sleep. More, short naps at mid-day with evening exercises three to four hours prior to getting to bed, were also found beneficial to improve sleep, cognitive tasks and mental health in the elderly. Researchers have found genetic evidences in people’s habits for sleeping longer especially in monozygotic twins.

Human sleep varies with age: Sleeping 6-7 hours each night correlates well with longevity and cardiac health of an adult while sleep difficulties are often associated with psychiatric disorders such as Depression, Alcoholism and Bipolar Disorder. Up to 90% adults suffering from depression will exhibit sleep difficulties.

The hours the children spend asleep, influence their ability to perform on cognitive tasks. Sleep also influence language development. More, there is a relationship between infant’s vocabulary and sleeping: Infants who sleep longer at night will develop better vocabulary. It is recommended that Newborns (0-3 months) 14-17 hours of sleep and Infants (4-11months) 12-15 hours. and adults 7-9 hours.

Wound healing has been shown to be affected by sleep as well as the immune system.

The use of antidepressants, acetaminophen, Ibuprofen or alcoholic beverages is thought to abolish the ability to dream while melatonin has a tendency in encouraging them.

A 2010 review suggested that exercise generally improve sleep and researchers have found sleep to play a vital role in the functioning of nearly every organ system in the human body. If you want your brain or body to function well, then try to stop using telephones to play video games or watch You-tube. We believe that 8 hours should be an average time one should take to sleep everyday especially when a life expectancy of 78 is the norm. In compiling, we would have slept a little less than 9,600 days, the equivalent of 26 years. Is it a waste of time? One will reason that this is at least one third of your life on earth, indeed, a lifetime for sleeping. We believe that it is surely the same for any living animal on this planet. In fact, sleep is important in the functioning of any organ.

How much sleep do we really need?

Many experiments were conducted in 2003, depriving people from sunlight in the Mammoth caves of Kentucky or in other studies at the Walter Reed Army Research Institute or at the University of Pennsylvania, to demonstrate the effect of sleep deprivation on the participants for two weeks. After 8 hours of sleep, a series of cognitive test were used as a baseline to study the speed of response on an interpretation of a written passage or to observe any intermittent dozing.

The Pennsylvania team grouped their participants in 4 different groups allowing them to sleep eight, six, four and zero hours for a period of three days. They were able to prove that one sleepless night was the cognitive equivalent of being legally drunk. The same study was repeated at the University of California.

By the tenth day, they were cognitively impaired. In all the experimental centers, the same results were duplicated. Even in the group where participants slept only 7 hours, some were dosing off at a rate three times greater than the group sleeping 8 hours. We should all get eight hours of sleep at night. A halt in the study was declared allowing the participants to do what they wanted. It was surprising to see that most of the participants slept 8 hours or more.

Finally, after sleep deprivation, participants were given three nights to recover. Many slept more than eight hours while it took them longer than a week to recover. Walker, from the University of California compared Sleep Deprivation to a bank where you keep borrowing money until you must pay it back. The brain can’t give back what it has lost. Also, you do not know when you are sleep deprived. The less sleep you get each night, the less cognitively aware you become the next day, and any subsequent days after.

Please encourage your kids, your friends to sleep eight hours and more, every night. Remember that if you are sleep deprived, it will take you longer than a weekend to get back to your baseline. Driving while you are sleep deprived is like driving when you are drunk.

Références :

1- Popular Sciences Magazine, June 2018

2- « Brain Basics Understanding Sleep », National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, US National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, 2017

3-Sleep-Wake cycle: its physiology and Impact on Health. National Sleep Foundation 2006

4-Siegel Jerome M (2008) “Do all animals sleep?” Trends in Neurosciences 31 (4) 208-213.

5- McCarley Robert W (2007) “Neurobiology of REM and NREM Sleep” Sleep Medicine 8 302-330

6- Naska A, Oikonomou E, Psaltopoulou T. Trichonoulos D (2007) “Siesta in healthy adults and coronary mortality in the general population” Archives of Internal Medicine 167 (3) 296-301

7-“A Genetic factor Regulates How long We Sleep”. Science Daily 2012

8-“Depression and Sleep pathology and Treatment” Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience 8 (2) pp 217-226

May I conclude with this poem of Luis Aragon:

« J’ai peur éperdument du sommeil de tes yeux
 me ronge le coeur de ce coeur que j’écoute
 arrête-toi dans ton rêve et ta route
 ta conscience et mon mal merveilleux. »

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