Monday, March 24, 2008

SLEEP, why is it important?

Do you remember the times when your parents used to tell you that it was your bedtime? But you were afraid that if you did go to sleep, you would miss out on something important. Sleep was boring to you back then and you felt you didn’t need much of it. So you would say, “I am not sleepy,” or “Can I stay up for a little while longer?” Yeah, there were times you could barely keep your eyes open but it was just something you took for granted and you felt it wasn’t important. If you are like many people, the more you stayed awake as a child, the more you created the habit of staying awake as an adult. But why would you need to ‘rest your eyes’ so much? You have so much to do, so many people to see and so many places to go, right?

Why is sleep important? Sleep is good for children’s growth. It also helps fight weight loss and diabetes and increases those gray cells for enhanced productivity.

Lesley Stahl of the hit television show “60 Minutes” researched the importance of sleep in her piece – The Science Of Sleep. In this study, she found that the purpose of sleep is not just to rest our eyes but also, more importantly, to improve our health and well being. Furthermore, she discussed that memory is improved after one learns a new task and later goes to sleep – after sleep, memory actually registered 20 to 30 percent improvement.

We all think we need to stay awake so we can get more done, but this study goes against the grain of this old thinking. In fact, staying up late each and every night may have more negative effects on a person than just being a detriment to memory capacity.

One issue discussed on the program was that of Diabetes – in fact, the Archives of Internal Medicine found that women who slept only five hours a night were 2 ½ times more likely to have diabetes as those who slept seven or eight hours.

Another issue is Growth – ‘beauty sleep’ or deep sleep allows the secretion of the growth hormone to help repair and rebuild body tissues like muscle and bone.

Here’s another one…Lack of productivity – when a person is sleep deprived, getting less than eight hours each and every night, the brain may become dysfunctional and not operate at its optimal level.

I like to tell people this – “Please do not operate heavy machinery if you are sleep deprived!” And this is not a joke – I’m perfectly serious when I give this warning! It has been said that many of the world’s manmade disasters have been caused by the lack of sleep – Exxon Valdez oil spill, Chernobyl disaster, The Three Mile Island disaster and many others.

One other factor which is negatively affected by lack of sleep is Weight. The lack of sleep lowers the level of leptin (a hormone which suppresses appetite) and raises grehlin (a hormone which increases the level of food intake). The result of this would be often undesired weight gain.

The illustrative image above (courtesy of the WHO Regional Office for Europe) demonstrates the effects of sleep and the lack thereof. This picture is posted under an article on the organization’s website on ‘Noise and Sleep’. Does it ring a bell? So the next time you want to stay awake to see that late night movie, depriving yourself of rest just because you don’t want to sleep, think about your health!

Clinical Hypnotherapist & Life Coach
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