Sleep- How important is it?
Sleep- How important is it?
By Tony DeLorger © 2011
As you may have read in two previous hubs, I have been diagnosed with severe sleep apnoea and have been on a journey of discovery regarding sleep and its importance. My apnoea is obstructive and therapy with a CPAP machine is going well. The machine keeps a constant pressure in your airways that automatically increases to overcome the cessation of breath caused by the relaxation and dropping of the soft pallet.
I am feeling better within weeks of the therapy and I now realise how I was feeling was so beneath par that I wonder how I coped. I would stop breathing some 49 times every hour, which lessened my oxygen intake and prevented me from gaining any deep or REM sleep.
We need about two hours of REM sleep per night to feel rested. The different cycles of sleep go up and down during the night and REM usually starts about ninety minutes into the sleep cycle. When I was tested, I was getting twenty to thirty minutes of REM sleep per night. No wonder I felt like crap.
There have been many studies on sleep and still there is much to learn. The reality is that we have to sleep to remain alive and to refresh both our minds and physiology. The longest anyone has gone without sleep and lived was 18 days, 21 hours and 40 minutes. The record holder reported hallucinations, paranoia, blurred vision, slurred speech and memory and an inability to focus. I’d be under the ground.
REM sleep is so important, babies need 65% REM sleep and premature babies need 75%. Even newborn kittens, puppies and rabbits will experience only REM sleep, while guinea pigs, being much more developed at birth, have almost no REM sleep. Obviously REM allows growth and is necessary for maintaining health.
REM sleep is the cycle in which we experience most of our dreaming. These dreams are characterised by bizarre plots, unlike dreaming in other cycles that are more mundane, like thoughts of where you left you mobile phone.
Teenagers need as much sleep as small children, about 10 hours, while over 65’s need about 6 hours. Between 25 to 55 years old, 8 hours is ideal. Studies have shown that women need about one extra hour sleep per night than men, and those who don’t get it are more prone to depression.
One important aspect of a good nights sleep is temperature. Temperature and the sleep cycle are closely connected. In the young blood flow transfers the core temperature to the skin between 18 and 30 degrees. As we get older that comfort temperature shrinks to between 23 and 25 degrees. So as we get into middle age, we should pay much more attention to temperature so we have a restful sleep.
Burning candles at both ends can affect more than you realise. At 17 hours of being awake our performance decreases to about the same degree as a blood alcohol level of 0.05, the limit for driving. So next time you’re out, think about that aspect of safety, not just how much you’ve had to drink. In Australia one out of six road fatalities are the result of fatigue. Also, after five nights of partial sleep deprivation, three alcoholic drinks will have the same affect to your body as six. Studies have also shown that as a group, 18 to 24 year-olds deprived of sleep suffer more impairment to performance.
In Canada, when clocks are put back and hour and everyone gets an extra hour’s sleep, there is an instant reduction in the number of road accidents. Sleep IS important.
In conclusion, we should all be more aware of how much and the quality of sleep we have. Without it we are less effective and can place ourselves in danger. Sleep apnoea can increase the risk of heart attack by 30%. Having poor sleep or not enough for any reason will have a negative affect on your health, and is certainly worthy more consideration.