Wilderness Underfoot: The mystery of sleep, Part 1

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-116302541024249.jpg’, ‘image provided’, ‘Sleep requirements change throughout your life – A newborn baby may sleep about 16 hours each day. By age 4, a child is sleeping 12 to 14 hours a day. By age 10, the duration drops to about 10 hours a day. Adults average seven or eight hours of sleep, with the amount slowly declining to six hours as they age. Recent studies confirm what many of us already know—that we are becoming increasingly sleep-deprived. Even youngsters younger than 5 are getting shorted on sleep.’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11630254676649.jpg’, ”, ‘Sleepy-eyed animals – Sleep isn’t unique to humans. Even the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, spends up to 12 hours each day in slumber.’);

The best thing you can do in your pursuit of health and happiness is to get plenty of sleep.

Going to school, working, taking care of kids and spending late nights in front of the TV or the computer—today’s busy lifestyles have conspired to leave many of us sleep-deprived. It’s hard to resist squeezing in a few more hours of activity each night because, after all, what’s wrong with a little grogginess?

For busy people, sleep may seem to be a big waste of time. But a growing body of evidence shows that adequate sleep is more important than we ever thought. The impact of missed sleep may include short- and long-term mental impairment, an increase in accidents and shorter lives.

Although you may feel physically refreshed after a good night’s sleep, physical rest doesn’t seem to be the most important function of sleep. Surprisingly, our average energy use in calories is only about 10 percent less when we’re sleeping. The importance of sleep has more to do with the needs of our brains.

Evidence shows that the human brain is active during parts of the sleep cycle, processing new knowledge, retracing the day’s events, and rewiring itself to integrate these experiences with long-term memories.

If you have ever missed a night’s sleep, you might recognize these symptoms: the inability to remember things and to think clearly, slow reaction times, grogginess and moodiness. Missing another day or two of sleep would lead you to lose rationality and begin to hallucinate.

Studies have shown that disruption in sleep can have a greater impact than on-the-job stress in worker burnout. And even a small shortage of sleep can be risky if you have to work with dangerous equipment or drive an automobile.

Studies on rats show that sleep-deprivation caused weight loss (no matter how much they ate), increased infections (due to impaired immune function) and after a few weeks without sleep, death.

If that isn’t enough to make you re-evaluate your sleep patterns, consider this: sleep deprivation is one of the most effective weapons in the arsenal of the torturer.

Next week: The mystery of sleep, Part 2

From the Nov.8-14, 2006, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!