World Sleep Day: To sleep or not to sleep?

Published: March 22, 2011

Sleep isn’t a luxury that can be cut back on to make time for other “more important” daily activities without serious consequences. ILLUSTRATION: JAMAL. K

We’ve all heard of World Aids Day, World Cancer Day and the usual Father’s Day and Mother’s Day. Well, here comes another day many of us would want to observe with great enthusiasm…World Sleep Day. I would be surprised if your first reaction isn’t “Excuse me…is this for real?” because that certainly was my first reaction. Despite its seemingly insignificant and somewhat ridiculous name, World Sleep day has a point…and I’m going to make it. Just give me till the end of this article.

We’re all living the 21st century lifestyle; where we’re busy with work, studies, kids etc. all of which causes us to neglect our physical needs.

It is sad but true. As human beings, we’re almost programmed to think short-term and of all the items on our agendas, a good night’s sleep is one item that never gets checked off our to do list. There’s always something more important; whether it’s spending time with your loved ones, catching up on your favourite soaps or, for the workaholics out there, just catching up on work and doing some in advance if there is time.

Psychologist and sleep expert David F. Dinges, Ph.D., mentions in his work Sleep, Sleepiness and Performance that irritability, moodiness and slow reflexes are some of the first signs of sleep deprivation. According to him, if a sleep-deprived person doesn’t sleep after the initial signs, the person may then start to experience apathy, slowed speech and flattened emotional responses, impaired memory and an inability to be novel or multitask.

There is more to catching a few winks than meets the eye…literally. Lack of sleep doesn’t only give you bags under your eyes; the consequences can be a lot more severe than you’d like to imagine. Sleep deprivation can result in lowering the effectiveness of the immune system, decreasing the release of growth hormones and causing heart rate variability. In short, not getting enough sleep can make you sick. Seriously sick.

Dr Michelle Miller, from the University of Warwick, says: “Chronic short sleep produces hormones and chemicals in the body, which increase the risk of developing heart disease and strokes, and other conditions like high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes and obesity.”

And this is exactly why we should all be enthusiastic about World Sleep Day that was observed worldwide on March 18 this year. The whole point of having such a day is to create awareness as far as the importance of sleep is concerned because most people world over tend to neglect their basic biological needs. So now that I have (hopefully) convinced you, you can get to work on trying to convince your respective bosses to be as enthusiastic about letting you practically implement what the day symbolically signifies. Good luck and happy sleeping!

Interesting fact

Leonardo Da Vinci credited most of his achievements to his sleeping habits, which were rather unique to say the least. He slept for 10 to 20 minutes for every four hours that he stayed awake. Result: more time, more dreams and a greater control our the body.

Some common sleeping disorders:

Sleeping disorders are many and their intensity varies from individual to individual. The following are some common sleeping disorders.

• Bruxism

It is a disorder in which the sleeping individual grinds or clenches his/her jaw during sleep. Symptoms include pain in the jaw and headaches but are not always detectable. It can lead to facial pain and chronic headaches.

• Narcolepsy

It is a neurological sleep disorder that results in the individual falling asleep at random times. This type of sleep is less restorative than normal sleep and therefore these people experience more sleepiness.  Symptoms include sleep paralysis and hallucinations.

• Somiloquy

It is a disorder which causes an individual to talk in his/her sleep. The frequency and volume of the speech varies from individual to individual.

• Sleep apnea

This sleeping disorder involves intervals in breathing activity during sleep. The time period of each occurrence is long enough so that one or more breaths are missed and this occurs repeatedly throughout the sleep. Symptoms are difficult to detect and the disorder may result in the individual feeling tired and sleepy.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 20th, 2011.

Reader Comments (3)

  • Ms.khan
    Mar 23, 2011 - 12:27PM

    Thanks for the insight :) I love sleeping btw ….cant get enough of it though :PRecommend

  • TA
    Mar 28, 2011 - 1:09PM

    Damn right i’m good in bed…i can sleep for days :DRecommend

  • Magicali
    Mar 28, 2011 - 2:02PM

    One realizes the importance of sleep when one cant in the office.Recommend

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