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Get some shut-eye

Friday, September 2, 2011

People who live by the age-old saying "I'll sleep when I'm dead" could be getting sleep sooner than later.

In 2006, the Harvard Women's Health Watch released a study showing six important reasons to get some sleep. I came across this as I was doing some investigation into my own sleep difficulties and I thought it would be of interest to others.

So, what are the six reasons you ask? Well, here is what the January 2006 issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch said:

1. Learning and memory: Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who'd slept after learning a task did better on tests later.

2. Metabolism and weight: Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.

3. Safety: Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps and road accidents.

4. Mood: Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.

5. Cardiovascular health: Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels and irregular heartbeat.

6. Disease: Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body's killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.

I have observed from personal experience that a lack of sleep can play some major havoc on your body and mind. I have seen friends in college that would stay up for days then wonder why they were getting sick. I can remember one friend who was so sick that he couldn't leave his bedroom. Then after sleeping for nearly an entire day, he felt better.

When people are tired they tend to not want to put forth the extra effort it takes to work out or make a healthy dinner. I know, it happens to me all the time. Perhaps the decline in physical activity is not due to a lack of motivation, but a lack of sleep.

Michael Pommier
The Shrinking Man