Time for a Nap

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Sleep apparently is the new ‘sex’. Are you getting enough?

Try ‘googling’ sleep deprivation and see what results come up. You may find articles on the ill-effect on health and work productivity, some even on torture of detainees. But can sleep deprivation be good for you?

Some of the effects of sleep deprivation include fatigue, lack of concentration, learning difficulties, decreased performance, poor judgements, clumsiness and accidents. These are some of the more obvious ones, however some studies are  linking sleep deprivation to decreases in satiety (satisfaction after eating) and increases in hunger. this combination leads the individual to consume foods higher in fats and energy, and therefore more prone to weight gain and obesity. A reduced insulin sensitivity was also noted which is an early sign of diabetes.  With all this in mind, it is easy to see the link between sleep deprivation and poor posture/back pain. That is;

Lack of Sleep -> Fatigue-> Slouching->Poor Posture->Back Pain

or

Lack of Sleep->Increased Hunger/Decrease Satiety->Fatigue/Less Exercise->Weight Gain -> Back Pain

According to a survey carried out by Central Queensland University in 2012 where 13,000 Aussies were surveyed in the largest survey ever performed on the subject. It revealed that 96 percent of respondents woke feeling tired and almost 40 percent of them had fallen asleep at their desk or during a meeting.

Other interesting findings were, that there was no particular age group or gender which were affected more by sleep deprivation. In fact it was seen evenly across the board.

Some of the factors attributed to the findings are not that surprising. Professor Dawson, who was responsible for the study, suggests that the changes in our lifestyle and lifestyle habits are to blame. He explains that our bedroom are now becoming ‘rooms that happen to have beds’ in them. With more intrusive screen based devices such as televisions, ipads, iphones, laptops, mobile devices and smartphones, it has made it difficult to relax. A large proportion of the people surveyed felt that they had no choice in the matter, as they felt they were on-call most of the time.  He also noted that pets, snoring and partners’ bathroom trips as some of the other major disruptions to sleep.

Something interesting I came across while ‘googling’, was this New York Times article called Learning While you Dream. Basically, a 100 people were recruited to solve a maze puzzle. they were given an hour to find the solution. Half of the recruits were allowed to sleep for 90 minutes, while the rest stayed awake were allowed to read or just relax. After the rest period all recruits were asked to perform the task again. Out of all the sleepers and no-sleepers, the only ones to improve their performances significantly were 4 people in the sleeping group. In fact these 4 sleepers halved their performance time. When questioned about their rest period, these 4 sleepers were the only ones to have dreams during their rest period.

This information suggests that dreaming while you sleep may have an important role on learning and solving complex problems. Dr. Stickgold from the Boston located study suggest that sleep and dreaming is about processing all your inner thoughts and experiences. “It’s almost as if your brain is rummaging through everything that happened today and deciding that you’re not done with it,” Dr. Stickgold said. “The things that really grip you, the ones you decide at an emotional level are really important, those are the ones you dream about. The things you’re obsessed with are the ones that your brain forces you to continue to process.”

Another thing that article does mention, is that the 4 ‘Dreamers’, although they had significant increases in puzzle solving power, had below average performances before they had their snooze!

Lastly, while sleep deprivation is not such a good thing, I did come across an article which suggested a positive effect of sleep deprivation. Given that not many of will ever suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a disorder in which the memory of a traumatic experience such as a car accident, war or a terrorist attack, may haunt an individual for years after the event. Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and Tel Aviv University, found that rats that were allowed to sleep after being exposed to a traumatic event, in the form of a scent of a predator, displayed PTSD-like behavior. While the rats that were sleep deprived after the exposure, did not exhibit the same behavior.  The researchers believe that ‘sleeping off’ a traumatic event may play a strong role in the retention of experiences, good or bad, into our long term memory. Don’t worry, no humans were harmed in this experiment….yet. Researchers are now planning a pilot study on humans.

Just to finalise I wanted to leave you with some of these cool, but expensive Sleeping Pods. Apparently Google employees have some of these in their office, something we should all have in my view!