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Sleep and Physical & Mental Health, Cause and Effect

Most commonly asked question about sleep is why do we need to sleep?

A simple answer would be, try to live without sleep for a day or two. Back in 1981 Mary Carskaden and DR. William Dement (father of modern sleep medicine and a fellow teacher in the school of sleep medicine) conducted an amazing experiment, the subjects were students of Stanford University (Palo Alto), CA. The study was structured so the students got only 5 hours of sleep instead of the usual 7 hours then sleepiness is evaluated on a daily bases.

After the second day, most students exhibit signs of fatigue, during the third and fourth days they behaved what DR. Dement described as the "twilight zone" like behavior. On the 5th and 6th days, they would fall asleep in less than five minutes whenever they are in an environment conducive to sleep such as lecture or a class room.

That experiment could be a lifelong experience for some unfortunate people, this condition is called chronic partial sleep deprivation. A person who sleeps only 5 instead of 7 hours is said to have acquired 2 hours of sleep debit, if that scenario is repeated for five consecutive days by the end of work week the person would have accumulated 10 hours of sleep debit (the brain keeps an accurate log of sleep) and recovery sleep is a must during the weekend.

The sleep magical power of healing is attributed to many factors,

  1. During the slow wave of sleep (the deepest sleep) 75%-80% of total growth hormones is produced, in children and adolescents HGH is essential for growth of bones and muscles, however, in adults HGH help metabolize lipids (fat) to generate energy need for physical recuperation. HGH in absence of insulin mobilize glucose from blood stream into the cells where it is metabolized and energy is generated.
  2. The heart rate and blood pressure is at its lowest during any given 24 hours period due to inhibition of the sympathetic nervous system.
  3. The production of Melatonin is elevated to ensure continuity of sleep.  We all have to be cognizant of how sleep affect our physical health and always avoid factors and situation that results in sleep deprivation.

For the last 20 years I have seen patients with health problems such as diabetes and obesity achieve amazing improvement after treating sleep disorders such as Insomnia, Obstructive sleep apnea, and disruptive dreams.