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Sleep is absolutely essential


Every living entity on the planet (and beyond) needs to sleep. Rats, die if they are deprived of sleep for 5 days (they also die if they are deprived of food for 5 days). Why this is, no one knows. It is one of the great unsolved mysteries of science. Wouldn't it be better if we didn't have to waste so much time with sleeping?

Krishna says in the Bhagavad-Gita (BG6.16):

There is no possibility of one's becoming a yog?«, O Arjuna, if one eats too much or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough.

The general trend nowadays (in the mode of passion) is to sleep too little. I was listening to this 60 minutes feature on sleep. They presented all the latest research on the subject. Some surprising and alarming results:

  • Sleep enhances memory: a study showed that students memorizing a list of words could recall them with 40% better accuracy after a night's sleep than they could before going to bed. So, pulling an all-nighter to revise for an exam will actually harm one's changes of remembering the material.
  • Insufficient sleep is cumulative: the negative effects of sleeping only 4-6 hours night-after-night build upon one another. The less sleep you get, the worse your state of body and mind becomes.
  • The effects of not sleeping are similar to intoxication: sleeping for only 4-6 hours has a similar effect on your mental awareness as drinking alcohol. So, for example, your ability to drive a car is severely impaired, your emotional mind takes over and can no longer be controlled by one's rational/logical mind. In fact, the MRI brain image of someone who hasn't had enough sleep is very similar to that of someone will a severe mental disorder. Caffeine can offset these effects for one or two days, but after three days insufficient sleep no amount of coffee can mask the intoxicating effect.
  • 2-second micro-sleeps occur after insufficient rest: if you have had insufficient sleep, then you will, most likely, not realize just how tired you actually are. Your body will fall asleep for 2 second, even with open eyes, without you realizing. Needless to say, this can be very dangerous when driving a car.
  • Many disasters are caused by insufficient sleep: lack of sleep played a factor in many accidents. For example: in the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown, the Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown and the Staten Island ferry crash the staff responsible all had had inadequate sleep.
  • Lack of sleep causes obesity: not sleeping enough causes a drop of the leptin hormone, which regulates hunger. So, not sleeping enough will make you feel hungry, even if you've had plenty to eat. It produces an uncontrollable desire to eat. The result: not sleeping makes you fat.
  • Lack of sleep causes diabetes: studies have shown that if someone is restricted to sleeping just four hours per night, they start developing symptoms of type-2 diabetes (symptoms include: weakness/fatigue, tingling/numbness in hands and feet, blurred vision, dry/itchy skin, unquenchable thirst, extreme hunger, weight loss, irritability, frequent urination, slow healing of wounds). It seems not getting enough sleep disturbs the body's ability to metabolize sugar. Indeed, type-2 diabetes, which used to only occur in elderly people, is becoming more and more common; even children are getting it (children need 9 - 10 hours sleep, yet frequently get less than 7 hours of sleep). Lack of sleep also increases one's risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.

Most people need 7.5 - 8 hours of sleep per night, yet the median amount of sleep people in the USA get today is just 6.7 hours. Sleeping is just as important as eating. Not sleeping is really dangerous. So, if you are not getting enough sleep, then what are you waiting for? Get to bed!

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  • Susan 03/05/2008 10:08am (10 years ago)

    From what I have read there appears to be two main schools of thought. One is basically the sleep debt theory as expanded in this article. However there is a strong belief by many that the mind and body can be trained to do with much less sleep. The regimes usually entail specific sleep patterns incorporating power naps. Devotees claim no ill effects and many more usable hours in the day (and night.)

    I have never managed to achieve it, but I would love the extra hours.

  • candidas das 16/04/2008 3:44pm (10 years ago)

    When someone does polyphasic sleep they never sleep long enough to enter into REM dream-sleep. From what I've read the research on exactly what happens during R.E.M. sleep is very sketchy. Science just doesn't know.

    My best guess is that polyphasic sleep will rest the body, that kind of sleep does not help the mind sort through it's thoughts and feelings of the day. So, engaging in this kind of sleep might cause mental disorders. Someone with a very disciplined and peaceful mind might be able to do it. But again, that is pure speculation.

  • Spencer 15/04/2008 9:51pm (10 years ago)

    Going 35 hours without sleep is hard, to say the least. 35 days would lead to insanity in almost any human. How about 35 years?

    This man had a fever in 1973 and has not been able to sleep since:

    Candidasa, what is your opinion on polyphasic sleeping? In summary, this is where a person sleeps for 20-30 minutes every four hours, equalling between two and three hours of sleep in any given 24 hours. Steve Pavlina did this ( and did not report any of the problems associated with sleeping so little monophasically.

  • dave 29/03/2008 8:21am (10 years ago)

    Did you know that research suggests that women generally need more sleep than their male counterparts?

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