Sleep, beautiful sleep

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Sleep is the most underrated health routine. When we sleep is when the body repairs and rejuvenates itself, says A. Radhakrishnan. He tells us ways to get a good night’s sleep.

II guess I have led a charmed life. For years now as a journalist, I have slept for only about four hours, and that has enhanced my life. It is cool to wake up early, jog and do all your chores and still see the sunrise. As a short-sleeper, I thank my genes for this, as my metabolism is okay with it. People who work a lot of hours are much more prone to be short sleepers. But then we creatures are the exceptions.

Sleep is very essential; at least seven hours at a stretch. When late meetings make you feel you are starving, it’s because you trained your body when to eat. The same can’t be said for the time we hit the sack. Getting to bed at a consistent hour every single night can help. “The body loves regularity,” says Michael Grandner, Director of a Sleep and Health Research Programme. “We are creatures of habit.” Just like our body prepares itself and relies on food at the same times each day, the body does the same for sleep.

Some have mastered the art of efficient sleeping. A lot happens during sleep. Your body recharges its energy and growth hormone is released, repairing and building tissue and muscle. Levels of cortisol or the stress hormone fall during the night, so they can rise to a reasonable level in the morning and keep us alert. Immune function is bolstered, and levels of ghrelin and leptin are regulated to keep our feelings of hunger and fullness in check.

Why sleep matters
According to a sleep study, 35 percent of adults say their sleep quality is only ‘fair’ or downright ‘poor’. One out of three adults don’t get enough sleep—less than seven hours per night, which has been linked to several chronic health condition, including heart disease, kidney disease, and high blood pressure, as well as mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

The importance of sleep cannot be stressed enough. The amount and quality of sleep really impacts our health. It is very frustrating when one cannot fall asleep. Some toss and turn, flip pillows over and over and readjust the blanket endlessly; the madness seemingly eternal till they go into a fitful sleep. This, friends, is what you call the RLS or restless leg syndrome.

Though millions suffer, there is no cure for this overwhelming tendency to move their legs, often waking up in the middle of the night with leg cramps, although it could affect the head, arms and the torso too. But there is a natural treatment unofficially recognised…an unscented but fresh bar of soap placed under the sheets every night before bed! It is believed that as fresh soap dries, it releases ions that help alleviate the pain of RLS.

Metro dwellers suffer from chronic sleep deprivation, but scientists have found that it can take a week or more for the cognitive and physiological consequences of poorer sleep to wear off – even after increasing sleep. A suggestion given is that if you know you have a week of little sleep ahead of you, try loading up on sleep beforehand, not simply afterward. The truth is that every human body is different and also needs a mattress that matches the body posture and the pressure distribution while sleeping.

A new drug called Ampakine tested on monkeys can temporarily improve performance and reverse the effects of sleep deprivation to the brain, which will be a boon for mankind and could enhance other cognitive deficits such as in Alzheimer’s disease.

Keep it light!
Garfield says ‘waking up is an annoying way to start a day!’
—-x—-
A conversation
So you have spent the entire day sleeping?
Power napping. It clears my mind when I need to make an important decision.
What important decision?
What time I should go to sleep!

Do you need an alarm to rise every day? If you do, it means you haven’t slept enough. Dr. Lawrence Epstein says that the alarm is the best way to sleep deprive yourself…meaning waking up by yourself could mean that you’re simply well-rested.

Sleeping till late over the weekend actually ups the risk of heart disease. More than a 40 minute afternoon nap ups risk of premature death. It is suggested that during long naps, the body thinks it is about to enter deep sleep and so finds its metabolic cycle unsettled after waking up, whereas with short naps, it does not experience this jolt.

In general, the more money people make, the less they sleep and this has been true for decades. Adults earning the highest for a family of four, sleep 40 minutes less than people in the lowest income families.

A sleep expert says most school children were not sleeping enough for mental restitution to take place. Due to lifestyles choices like watching TV, internet browsing or chatting on phone, an increasing number of them are sleeping late and lose out on the last phase of their sleep cycles that consolidates memory and helps a person retain what he has learned.

Scientists claim to have found a ‘sleepiness gene’ that affects whether people rise refreshed and ready to attack the day, or would rather turn over and go back to sleep.

Shakespeare once called sleep, the ‘balm of hurt minds’. Bodies too apparently. People with the severe form of apnea which interferes with sleep are several times more likely to die from any cause than are folks without the disorder. It is a condition that erodes your health over time.

Sleep suggestions

  • Set a schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time including holidays. Sleep for minimum of eight hours and follow it for one week straight.
  • Once you can get up in the morning alarm free and feel alert most of the day, you’ve got it right
  • Cut caffeine – Resist the urge to have caffeine post afternoon. It will perk you up, but could linger long after you’ve left work.
  • Dim your devices and avoid any electronics at least one hour before going to bed.
  • Regular exercises helps improve sleep, but don’t do that just before you are going to sleep.
  • Never eat just before you turn in.
  • A nice head massage with no-stick oils aids sleep.
  • For back pain, lie on your back, place a pillow under your knees or a rolled towel under the small of your back to maintain the body’s natural curve. In general, experts say sleeping on the back is the best for this condition.
  • So, sleep is not lost time. It is critical for many body functions and keeps many systems in balance. Gardner advises, “To keep a more consistent bedtime, make sure that you give yourself enough time. You know the hour you want to hit the sack, so think ahead. Get into your PJs and brush your teeth early, so you don’t wake yourself up in the process of preparing for bed. Power down your technology and gadgets at least 30 minutes before bedtime, since the emitted blue light can keep you awake.”
  • Once you climb between the sheets, have some quiet time. Read a magazine or book (not an e-reader) with a small nightstand light, if you’re still not totally ready for sleep. Pretty soon, you’ll be a creature of beneficial bedtime habits.
  • In conclusion, a man’s 30 year prison sentence for conspiracy and racketeering was overturned because his lawyer slept on and off throughout his trial. The judge held that the defendant was deprived of his Sixth amendment right to counsel when counsel sleeps during a substantial portion of the defendants trial!!


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    A. Radhakrishnan

    A. Radhakrishnan is a Pune based freelance writer, short story writer and poet, who loves to make friends and elicit a chuckle from others.

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