Sleep a Dynamic Activity


  • Sleep is as essential to your well-being as food or water.
  • Did you know that a chemical called adenosine builds up in our blood while we are awake and causes drowsiness. This chemical gradually breaks down while we sleep. More sleep, less chemicals in the blood, less drowsiness.
  • During sleep your brain accomplishes five distinct activities in the same order every night. Stages 1, 2, 3, 4, and REM. If your sleep is interrupted at any point, your brain will start over at the beginning. 
  • While rats normally live for two to three years, those deprived of REM sleep survive only about 5 weeks on average, and rats deprived of all sleep stages live only about 3 weeks.
  • Sleep deprivation affects the immune system in detrimental ways.
  • Your brain neuron connections are repaired every night.
  • Everything you have learned throughout the waking hours is relearned and memories are recoded and learning is improved.
  • Mood swings are less common after a good sleep.
  • Your cells increase in production during sleep resulting in healthier skin and repairing damage from stress and ultraviolet rays, resulting in healthier younger-looking skin!
  • Activity in parts of the brain that control emotions, decision-making processes, and social interactions is drastically reduced during deep sleep, suggesting that this type of sleep may help people maintain optimal emotional and social functioning while they are awake.

Experts say that if you feel drowsy during the day, even during boring activities, you haven't had enough sleep. If you routinely fall asleep within 5 minutes of lying down, you probably have severe sleep deprivation, possibly even a sleep disorder. Caffeine and other stimulants cannot overcome the effects of severe sleep deprivation.

Symptoms much like jet lag are common in people who work nights or who perform shift work. Because these people's work schedules are at odds with powerful sleep-regulating cues like sunlight, they often become uncontrollably drowsy during work, and they may suffer insomnia or other problems when they try to sleep. Shift workers have an increased risk of heart problems, digestive disturbances, and emotional and mental problems, all of which may be related to their sleeping problems. The number and severity of workplace accidents also tend to increase during the night shift. Medical interns working on the night shift are twice as likely as others to misinterpret hospital test records, which could endanger their patients.

The National Sleep Foundation says that if you have trouble keeping your eyes focused, if you can't stop yawning, or if you can't remember the last few minutes of your conversation then you are sleep deprived and too drowsy to drive safely. When you have the flu you feel sleepy because your cells are overworking to fight off infection, if your cells are already tired when threatened by a virus they will be less successful at fighting it off. Sleep deprivation is a leading cause in many serious health problems : stroke, asthma, seizures, Alzheimer's disease, cancer. Once sleeping problems develop, they can add to a person's impairment and cause confusion, frustration, or depression. Patients who are unable to sleep also notice pain more and may increase their requests for pain medication.

The amount of sleep a person needs also increases if he or she has been deprived of sleep in previous days. Getting too little sleep creates a "sleep debt," which is much like being overdrawn at a bank. Eventually, your body will demand that the debt be repaid. We don't seem to adapt to getting less sleep than we need; while we may get used to a sleep-depriving schedule, our judgment, reaction time, and other functions are still impaired. The following suggestions, as simple as they may be, represent proven medical advice to be followed as seriously as a doctor's prescription.

  • Either inadequate sleep or irregular sleep habits must be avoided. Most people do best if they do to bed and get up at fairly consistent times.
  • Try to get 8 hours of sleep. Insist that sleeping is the only acceptable activity during those 8 hours, do not give in, be strong. Your body will learn what you teach it.
  • Take Scheduled Naps. Naps should be restricted to an hour or less. Longer naps make many people feel worse. Do not take naps after 6pm.
  • Avoid Sweets. (candy, cake, pie, cookies, etc.), regular pop, and other foods high in sugar--including honey. It has been shown that sugar increases entry of tryptophan (a sedating amino acid found in proteins) into the brain. Thus, it does seem logical to suspect that sweets would prove sedating, rather than giving one energy--at least for any length of time!
  • Avoid Peanuts. (are high in tryptophan) and peanut butter (most brands also contain sugar).
  • Avoid Other foods high in tryptophan (such as turkey, dairy products). It may be best to take them before bedtime.
  • Avoid Apples and apple-containing foods. have been reported by a number of patients to increase their sleepiness: for uncertain reasons, since apples are not high in tryptophan. It may be worth trying to take them only before bedtime.
  • Obesity. Obesity should be avoided and/or corrected by appropriate changes in eating habits.
  • Avoid Sedating Drugs and Alcohol. They reduce REM and reparative stages of sleep and increase sleepiness the next day!
  • Emotional State. Depression and stress cause sleepiness, sleepiness causes depression and stress, which in turn cause more sleepiness, and so on ...
  • Avoid Exercise after 3:00 pm. 
  • Avoid Caffeine after 3:00 pm.
  • Avoid large evening meals.

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