Friday, 1 April 2011

Sleeeeep... My Second Love

People often get my first love confused with my second love. It was actually a tough choice, but given that I am recurrently known to stay up until all hours of the night with a particularly good book, I had to make sleep my second love.

I can remember having naps when I was a little kid and I remember my first day in grade nine, which started an era of daily naps. Every day after school I would come home and have a two hour nap. I always hoped this need for sleep would fade aaway as I got older but it never has. In fact, the only things that can prevent me from having a nap these days are my kids, and my cards and scrapbooking. I believe this is mainly because all the goodies for this hobby are in my bedroom so when I go in there to lie down I think, "Oh, I'll just do this one thing..." and before you know it, an hour or two has gone by! The child portion of things is self-explanatory - I hope. Otherwise you're in for a surprise when you have children...

I have tried to eradicate napping from my life on numerous occasions and the only result I have experienced is that of feeling like a walking zombie. Seriously, you know when you're driving and your eyes start drooping and you have to open the window and sing really loud to the music just to keep them open? That is what I feel like in the middle of the morning and/or afternoon (yes, in my ideal world there would be two naps) if I don't get to sleep. I really hate that feeling.

Tea is a great saviour most of the time for being able to neglect my naps. The only problem with tea is that it takes a good half hour to kick in so I still have to endure that torturous thirty minutes of trying not to feel so drowsy before it gives me that little boost. Tea is also a whole other subject for me in which I will have to save for another blog day. Yes, I can already tell you are sitting on the edge of your seat in anticipation.

I get teased a lot about my love for sleep. The joke is on you guys though because sleep is SO important for so many things. Here are some fully plagiarized facts that I found:
  • Sleep provides an opportunity for the body to repair and rejuvenate itself.
    • Study after study has revealed that people who sleep poorly are at greater risk for numerous diseases and health problems.
    • Animals deprived entirely of sleep lose all immune function and can die in a matter of just weeks.
    • Studies have found that a single night of inadequate sleep in people who have existing hypertension can cause elevated blood pressure throughout the following day.
  • Sleep plays a critical role in brain development in infants and young children.
  • Research suggests that sleep plays an important role in memory, both before and after learning a new task. The general consensus is that consolidated sleep throughout a whole night is optimal for learning and memory.
  • Lack of sleep affects mood, motivation, judgment, and our perception of events (duh!)
  • Studes have shown that people who habitually sleep less than six hours per night are much more likely to have a higher than average body mass index (BMI) and that people who sleep eight hours have the lowest BMI.
    • During sleep, our bodies secrete hormones that help to control appetite, energy metabolism, and sugar procession. Obtaining too little sleep upsets the balance of these and other hormones.
  • Given that a single sleepless night can cause people to be irritable and moody the following day, it is conceivable that chronic insufficient sleep may lead to long-term mood disorders. Chronic sleep issues have been correlated with depression, anxiety, and mental illness.
  • Research in animals suggests that those animals who obtain more deep sleep following experimental challenge my microbial infection (basically meaning they gave rats the flu or something of that nature) have a better chance of survival.
And now my favourite part... The benefit of napping:
  • Harvard researchers found that taking a 60-90 minute nap has a benefit similar to that of nighttime sleep and that combining nighttime sleep with napping has twice the effect.
  • A recent study in the research journal, Sleep, examined the benefits of naps of various lengths and no naps. The results showed that a 10 minute nap produced the most benefit in terms of reduced sleepiness and improved cognitive performance. A nap lasting 30 minutes or longer is more likely to be accompanied by sleep inertia, which is the period of grogginess that sometimes follows sleep.
I do have two contentions with this last section. First, that once I'm asleep, I find it hard to get up again unless I've had a good two hours of shut-eye. The grogginess has only ever been a problem for me if I was woken before I was ready or if I slept too late in the afternoon. Second, that I don't find myself to be stronger than anyone else in any kind of academia or immune function. In fact, I consider myself to be a slower thinker with a terrible short-term memory and immune bugs seem to find me like a heat-seeking missile! Perhaps this means I need still more sleep...? I can only hope.

Thanks for reading!

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