ByÂ Krishna Prasanth:
The modern day urban life takes its toll on the human mind and body. While it provides many artificial avenues for pleasure and relaxation, what it takes away is a natural and free way to get the same, which is ‘sleep’.
It has a plethora of benefits but essentially, sleep provides an opportunity for the body to repair and rejuvenate itself. In recent years, these ideas have gained support from empirical evidence collected in human and animal studies. The most striking of these is that animals deprived entirely of sleep lose all immune function and die in just a matter of weeks. This is further supported by findings that many of the major restorative functions in the body like muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and growth hormone release occur mostly, or in some cases, only during sleep.
So perhaps, sleep is as important as eating food is but it’s just that people don’t recognize it that way. The larger consequences of less sleep don’t show much in the short run, while the benefits of not sleeping and doing something else are immediate, hence the choice.
But work pressure isn’t the only reason for people to be devoid of sleep. There are many who complain of not being able to sleep in spite of lying on the bed for hours. While many cases are those of sleeping disorders and diseases, many are just the result of bad habits. Many research papers suggest that computer screens and gaming devices may well have a big effect in reducing sleep. Games and LCD screens keep the level of alertness of the sensory organs high, hence making it difficult for us to sleep.
Moreover, having an irregular routine with respect to sleeping time can affect the quality of sleep. We all have a built-in body clock which tells us when we are tired, and helps synchronise thousands of cells in our body to the circadian rhythm(A circadian rhythm is a roughly 24 hour cycle in the physiological processes of living beings). The main synchroniser for our body clock is light. Our eyes react to the light and dark, even when our eyelids are closed. Daylight prompts our brains to reduce the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
In fact, stress is the enemy of sleep! In bed, our mind is left free to wander, and feeling anxious about getting enough sleep will only make it worse. In these states people lose track of time. You may nod off and wake up again but it may still feel as if you are getting no sleep at all. This can result in fragmented sleep with less time spent in the deep stages of sleep.
Hence people must avoid facing computer and mobile screens as far as possible, at least just before sleep. Moreover maintaining a proper sleeping routine, in sync with the natural world i.e., sleeping as early as possible and waking up early is really important. Lastly, in order to deal with stress and anxiety the best solution is maybe solve a puzzle and then try to sleep. This takes the mind off the worrying issues. But beyond that, before people implement these virtues what is important is for people to have some incentives to follow them, or maybe know the disincentives in not following them.
Not having a proper sleep every day can have serious consequences. In the short term, sleeping less has consequences like drowsiness, mental and physical fatigue, difficulty in clear thinking and judgment etc. But if this trend of not sleeping continues, one could be inviting risks of suffering from obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. Let us look into these problems in more detail.
Lack of sleep can disable the immune system. Sleeping is the time when the mind diverts its energies towards regenerating and repairing infected and damaged portions of the body. Depriving the body of this time definitely means a fall in the body’s ability to cope with diseases.
Moreover, studies have suggested that people who usually sleep less than five hours a night have an increased risk of having or developing diabetes. It seems that missing out on deep sleep may lead to type 2 diabetes by changing the way the body processes glucose, the high-energy carbohydrate that cells use for fuel.Â To add to the list of possible miseries, long-standing sleep deprivation seems to be associated with increased heart rate, an increase in blood pressure and higher levels of certain chemicals linked with inflammation, which may put extra strain on your heart.
And perhaps the list goes on. The utility of sleep and the problems that lack of it can cause continues to be a research topic in the academic circles. Given the sort of problems that are possible as mentioned above, there can’t be any tangible benefit that can outweigh the losses, at least to a rational person.
Hope the article didn’t make you sleep, but if it did then do read it every night before you try to sleep. Might just help!