By Henrylito D. Tacio
In ‘Macbeth,’ William Shakespeare wrote: “Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care / The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath / Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, / Chief nourisher in life’s feast.”
Miguel de Cervantes, in ‘Don Quixote,’ surmised: “Now, blessings light on him that first invented sleep! It covers a man all over, thoughts and all, like a cloak; it is meat for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, heat for the cold, and cold for the hot. It is the current coin that purchases all the pleasures of the world cheap, and the balance that sets the king and the shepherd, the fool and the wise man, even.”
The observations of both famous writers were written several centuries ago, but they are still truer than ever. Kelvin King Lee, 28, knows this, too. A law student attending Ateneo de Manila University, he only sleeps about five hours a night. “It’s usually because I’m either studying late or writing and editing,” says Lee, who also edits his university’s law journal. Often, he lies in bed memorizing legal cases. “I’m always running out of time,” he admits.
Lee is not alone. According to studies from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, at least one third of adults have significant sleep loss (six hours or less of a sleep a night). A recent AC Nielsen poll found that 40 percent of Asians go to bed only after midnight. “People often stay late in their offices,” says Dr. Yue-Joe Lee, a physician and professor in the Department of Psychiatry at National Taiwan University Hospital. “Oftentimes, they’re not aware of their sleeping problem.”
A good night’s sleep means waking up rested and energized. On average, a healthy adult needs between six and eight hours of sleep a night, according to Dr. Ravi Seshadri, a sleep expert and clinical director of MD Specialist HealthCare at the Paragaon Medical Center in Singapore. That amount of sleep, however, is invariable.
“It’s not a fixed number,” says Dr. Patrick Gerard Moral, head of the sleep and snore diagnostic and treatment unit of the University of Santo Tomas. It’s not only about quantity of sleep but quality as well, he adds. In fact, the amount of sleep a person needs also increases if he or she has been deprived of sleep in previous days.
Not counting those sheep can create a “sleep debt,” which is very much like an overdrawn bank account. Eventually, your body will demand that the “debt” be repaid. While we may be able to adjust to a sleep-depriving schedule, our judgment, reaction time, and other functions are impaired by a lack of sufficient sleep.
Recent studies have also shown that getting a good night’s rest is more important than you can ever imagine. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), the amount you sleep can contribute to your overall health. For instance, women who responded to the poll which NSF conducted reported that those who were in “poor health” also experienced daytime sleepiness a few days a week, have missed work due to sleepiness, and are more likely to have used a sleep aid than those who categorized themselves as in “excellent health.”
This trend can do more than make you grumpy and groggy – not getting enough sleep can contribute to the risk of developing diabetes. A study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, shows that after three nights of poor sleep, healthy people can lose their ability to process sugar by 23 percent — a problem that in the long-term could lead to weight gain and diabetes.
Comparatively speaking, those in the experiment who were deprived of good sleep experienced a drop in metabolism similar to what would have been seen had they gained between 17 and 28 pounds.
The current epidemic of diabetes and obesity also appears to be related, at least in part, to chronically getting inadequate sleep. Even though regular exercise and a healthy diet are very important, evidence is growing that sleep is a powerful regulator of appetite, energy use, and weight control.
Experts claim that during sleep, the body’s production of the appetite suppressor leptin increases, and the appetite stimulant grehlin decreases. Studies find that the less people sleep, the more likely they are to be overweight or obese and prefer eating foods that are higher in calories and carbohydrates. Feeling sleepy can cause you to eat more “comfort foods.”
People who report an average total sleep time of 5 hours a night, for example, are much more likely to become obese compared to people who sleep 7–8 hours a night. A number of hormones released during sleep also control the body’s use of energy. A distinct rise and fall of blood sugar levels during sleep appears to be linked to sleep stage.
Not getting enough sleep overall or enough of each stage of sleep disrupts this pattern. “It really does appear that sleep and obesity are a two-way street,” says psychologist Michael Breus, who specializes in treating sleep problems. “Bad sleep may lead to weight gain, and weight gain can lead to bad sleep.”
On the other hand, research in Japan has shown that men who sleep five hours or less a night are more than twice as likely to suffer a heart attack as men who sleep eight hours. And according to Neil Stanley, chairman of the British Sleep Society, “Night workers – or anyone who works on a shift – have been shown to have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.”
Dr. Rafael Castillo, a consultant cardiologist at the Manila Doctors Hospital, agrees. “Sleep deprivation may potentially increase risk for the development of cardiovascular problems,” he points out.
A study done by Columbia University found that sleeping less than five hours doubled the risk of high blood pressure. Not getting enough sleep will also make you look older. Well, there are hundreds of creams and lotions which will help get rid of those nasty dark circles and bags under your eyes. However, researchers have found that dark circles are probably the least of your worries. When laboratory animals are deprived of sleep, they succumb to infections, their hair falls out and they rapidly waste away.
“Sleep loss, particularly chronic sleep deprivation, exerts a profound effect on our physiology,” explains Dr. Derk-Jan Dijk, director of the University of Surrey’s Sleep Research Center. “Many hormonal changes are dependent on a normal sleep-wake pattern. Disrupting them can adversely affect our immune systems.”
A good night’s sleep doesn’t begin once you’re lying in bed. Help your body prepare for being well-rested by developing good sleep-smart habits during the course of the day. Try to wake up at the same time every day to set a schedule for your body. Also, hitting the gym can help you fall sleep more easily, as will avoiding caffeine consumption in the afternoon. Taking good care of yourself will make you count less sheep and score more sleep, which can make all the difference in your life. Perhaps the words of Arthur Schopenhauer will give you more reason to sleep now. “Sleep,” he said, “is the interest we have to pay on the capital which is called in at death; and the higher the rate of interest and the more regularly it is paid, the further the date of redemption is postponed.” — ###