To SLEEP…perchance to DREAM…

Grantsleeping-guy NHNed, the most important element for life of humans is the air we breathe. Next necessity is water. But it is a toss-up whether the third necessary element is food or sleep. I vote for SLEEP. We can go far longer (and remain sane) without food than we can without sleep. This decreasing segment of our days is responsible for a variety of ills.

Some more things we have recently learned about sleep are:

  1. Sleep deprivation is related to weight gain. Over a 5-night period at the University of Pennsylvania, the weights of participants of two groups were compared (sleep was limited to 4 hours a night in the sleep deprivation group compared with a sleeping group that remained in bed for 10 hours a night). The sleeping group actually lost weight, while the sleep deprived group gained weight.
  2. Lack of sleep increases the risk of:
    1. Daytime drowsiness, drowsy-driving and its consequence
    2. Psychiatric conditions, including depression and substance abuse
    3. Inattention, decreased ability to remember new information or react quickly to signals, that is, signals of all sorts
    4. Falls, injuries and even mortality
    5. People with “persistent insomnia” are 58% more likely to die of any cause than good sleepers
  3. Decreased sleep increases the risk of diabetes and heart problems.
  4. Going to bed later (not necessarily getting less sleep) is associated with more negative thinking. Researchers at Binghamton University found that individuals who go to bed very late have more negative thinking, and worry. These “night owl” worry warts may simply have delayed sleep onset because they are worrying, or interfering with normal circadian rhythms and could be the cause of the worry. You have probably noticed that problems seem much larger at nighttime than in the daytime.
  5. Diminished sleep is associated with cognitive decline in older years. Having disordered sleeping was equivalent to being 2 years older. A single sleepless night increases biomarkers for brain damage via killing of brain cells.
  6. Sleep actually clears neurotoxins from our brains. The rate of exchange between brain tissues and sleeping-woman NHNspinal fluid that gets rid of neurotoxic waste is enhanced during sleep (including neurotoxins associated with Alzheimer’s disease). Sleep serves this vital function, removing toxins that accumulate while we are awake.

So, if you stay up late, watch television and mindlessly munch on unhealthy foods, get less than 7 hours of sleep, you now know that you have chosen to:

So, if you stay up late, watch television and mindlessly munch on unhealthy foods, get less than 7 hours of sleep, you now know that you have chosen to:

  • Increase your probability of getting Alzheimer’s, diabetes and heart disease
  • Gain weight (and unhealthy waist inches)
  • Prevent the metabolism of harmful brain neurotoxins
  • Be drowsy during the day
  • Increase the probability that you will become depressed
  • Be satisfied with a slower reaction time
  • Have more worry-time
  • Needlessly die sooner than later

Now you know the choices you are making.

Minimally, sleep affects everything from increasing one’s healthy immune system to a practical vista of skillful, flexible, creative activities in handling and shaping daily life. Most adults require at least seven hours of sleep for peak-performance, optimal health and well-being. Far from being a luxury, sleep is an absolute necessity for life and healthy living.

So, how about, TONIGHT, turn off the TV, computer, cellphone (any blue light) around 9 PM, go to bed around 11 PM, sleep at least 7 hours (8 is probably better), and simply see if you can make tomorrow a better day?

And…how about progress toward a safer, saner, slimmer, more comfortable, longer, and happier life?

An upcoming article will elaborate on some innovative activities we can do to sleep better.

Charles T. Knosleeping-baby NHNwles is a writer and filmmaker living in North Carolina.  He has designed and produced public presentations by a Presidential Candidate, Politicians, Journalists,  Authors, Musicians, and fellow Filmmakers.