By Dr. J.K. Bhutani
After good stomach (appetite), good SLEEP is a fairly good indicator of sound health.
We all need sleep, as much as we need food, water and oxygen to survive, propagate and work effectively as a human race. Good natural sleep is a vital indicator of overall health and well-being.
We need sleep as much, for a variety of benefits and functions of brain and body, as we need it to connect with the piety GODLY soul in us all and for much of our dreamy-worlds, fantasies and aspirations.
The intended ‘night-time benefits’ are built in our species survival and adaptation to the DIURNAL rhythm of the planet mother-EARTH. Human sleep and wakefulness periods follow a natural, circadian rhythm influenced by external environmental cues, most important being the sunlight.
- The photosensitive-retinal-ganglion cells have a pigment melanopsin, which, after getting activated by light, regulates the synthesis of MELATONIN, the sleep hormone from pineal gland. This neurohormone, along with other endorphins and well-being hormones, plays an important role in sleep-awake cycle and circadian rhythms.
- There doesn’t seem to be any one system-organ-tissue-cell or the micro-organelles (cilia, endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondria etc) within the body, or process within the brain, that isn’t optimally ENHANCED by sleep, and detrimentally impaired when we don’t get enough of it.
- Sleep enhances the learning capability, helps cement recent memory, erase the superfluous or erratic and re-energizes the emotional circuits to cope effectively with unpleasant emotion, grief or loss.
- SLEEP boosts our immune system to ward off or fight infections, sickness, to keep malignancy away and also optimises our body’s energy balance, glucose-insulin responses and our food assimilation eventually. Weight-obesity-Hypertension and Cardiovascular diseases are proven outcomes of sleep deprivations, studies show.
- Sleep, analysed scientifically, consists of 4 phases. From Awake to Light/NREM(Non-Rapid-Eye-Movement), to Deep/REM and repeat. These cycles are of 90-120 minutes and we need 3-4 such cycles normally. The NREM or light sleep refreshes our body-muscles-physique and NREP sleep energizes our brain. Both light and deep sleeps are needed for the optimal body-mind functions.
- Our current PERCEPTIONS and PRIORITIES regarding sleep, its need, nature and quality are not healthy and are rather cynical of its INEVITABLE NEED and quality. We all need 7-8 hours of sleep, different from infants who may sleep for 14-16 hrs and adolescents who may need 10 hours for optimal growth.
- The sleep has to be natural too for the intended benefits. WE need to ADOPT and develop significantly better methods for creating NATURAL sleep as the sedatives-alcohol or tranquilizers do not give WHAT a natural wink, short nap or even one cycle of 2hrs sleep can. Alcohol may appear to allow people to fall asleep quicker but it reduces the REM sleep and thus, is not energising for the brain.
- Lack of REM sleep may cause daytime drowsiness, poor concentration and much of the hangover phenomenon symptoms. While sedatives and tranquilizers may be a sleep aid in insomnia patients, but they have less rejuvenating and restorative sleep benefits. They also have a potential to cause addiction, substance abuse and often hamper with respiratory muco-ciliary clearance and are often associated with many health problems. The litany of benefits of the natural sleep are legion and need to be propagated with same fervour as are the benefits of organic foods in the public perceptions.
SLEEP – hygiene is a collection habits and practices conducive to sleeping naturally and well on a regular basis. Some STEPS which can help are listed below.
- Try honouring the body sleep schedule/ rhythm, even on weekends and travel days. A routine of physical exercise helps release endorphins and wellness hormone which can help induce natural sleep.
- Keep electromagnetic away for at least 2 hrs before sleep time. All LED bulbs, laptops, tablets, cell phones, LED TVs and even LED digital clocks can affect melatonin production and potentially mess with your sleep cycles. A relaxing thought-meditations or a story book is a better option.
- Have a comfortable temperature, good mattress-pillow and clean bedroom ambience.
Avoid tea/coffee/ stimulant energy drinks and alcohol. And having a firm belief in the goodness and hope helps.
SLEEP, if called a THIRD PILLAR of sound health after diet and exercise, should be APT!
Dr J.K. Bhutani, MD is a protagonist of preventive and promotive health care based on austere biology and facilitating self-healing powers of human organism. Twitter: @drjkbhutani