Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lose your sleep, lose your mind!

Eisha Sarkar
Posted on Hello Wellness on Dec 09, 2010

In 1964, 17-year-old Randy Gardner from California kept himself awake for 264 hours without the use of stimulants and entered the Guinness Book of World Records. Why did he do it? He wanted to prove that extreme sleep deprivation has little effect on health, never mind the fact that he mistook a street sign for a person during the experiment!

We tend to underestimate the importance of sleep. We keep changing our rest hours and sometimes do away with them altogether to do "something more useful". What we forget is that by not giving our bodies seven to eight hours of rest, we are harming them in many ways.

Going blank

Among the numerous physical consequences of sleep deprivation, deficits in attention and working memory are the most important which can range from forgetting ingredients while cooking to missing a sentence while taking notes to car crashes and industrial disasters that can cost many lives.

Sleeping less than 7.5 hours per day may be associated with future risk of heart disease. Researchers from Jichi Medical University, Tochigi, Japan, found that patients with shorter sleep duration plus an overnight increase in blood pressure had a higher incidence of heart disease than those with normal sleep hours and no overnight increase of blood pressure. Acute sleep deprivation can also lead to an increased production of inflammatory hormones and changes in blood vessel function.

Sweet poison
Lack of deep sleep in healthy young adults significantly decreases their ability to regulate blood sugar levels and increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. Hormones released during sleep control the body’s use of energy. The distinct rise and fall of blood sugar levels during sleep appears to be linked to sleep stage. Not getting enough sleep disrupts this pattern.

Piling on the pounds
People who sleep for five hours a night more likely to become obese compared those who sleep eight hours. Lack of sleep produces Ghrelin which stimulates hunger and creates less leptin that suppresses appetite. People who sleep less have a greater increase in body mass index and waist circumference and a greater chance of becoming obese over time.

How much should you sleep?
While sleep needs vary by age and among individuals, sleep is considered to be adequate when there is no daytime sleepiness or dysfunction. Less than seven hours of sleep a day spells trouble. Pregnant women and adolescents need more than eight hours. 

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