Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Importance of Sleep

You've probably heard many times from many sources about the importance of sleep. On the whole, the recommended number of hours of sleep is 7-9 hours per night (8 average). Most of the working population fall short of this recommended dosage of Zzs per night for one reason or another.

For some, it is the lack of time in due to the demands of careers or academic schoolwork. When your boss is pressing you to finish a project or an exam is to be administered the next day, most people understandably sacrifice a few hours (or all the hours...) of sleep to fulfill these tasks. The general rationale is that sleep can be "made up" in the days following the deadline. I've experienced both these reasons first hand in the recent few weeks.

While for others, it is simply due to lesser distractions that capture their attention and hold it until past bedtime. This can range from surfing the internet until the wee hours of the morning to being transfixed on an interesting novel -- again, I've been guilty of both accounts. Or it could just be watching multiple television shows.

Taken the aforementioned demographics into consideration, it is pretty clear that the second demographic is just "wasting time". (I am not trying to belittle things like internet surfing, but these activities are not very important.) But I'm going to take it a step further and argue that even for the first demographic, our perception of what is important is misplaced. In other words, sleep should be higher on the hierarchy of priorities than even career advancement and academic excellent (gasp!).

Here are some reasons why:
  • Sleep deprivation leads to physiological as well as psychological changes for the worse. People tend to become moodier (aka spazz out) quicker, think and talk slower, and even doze off at inopportune times.
  • Biologically speaking (I did score a 5 on my AP Bio exam...), sleep is a time where your cells recuperate and repair any damages sustained during the waking hours. Cell division (mitosis) occurs in the process. Lack of sleep deprives your body of this time to heal and refresh itself. In the long term, cells may divide quicker and more frequent as a result -- which is a negative because they do not have infinite division cycles.
  • One cannot dream when one does not sleep. One of my favorite things about sleeping is the possibility of having fantastic dreams. Sometimes they can be weird but, for the most part, they're pleasant and help me think about something from another perspective.
In sum, I think there is a positive correlation between good sleep (hitting those magical 7-9 hours per night) and health. And what could be more important than health? Oftentimes, no amount of money nor academic degrees can undo permanent health issues caused by the lack of sleep.

I guess the reason for blogging on this topic is my first-hand experience (or reminder) of how important sleep is last night. For some reason, I had a severe headache yesterday evening and was barely able to finish dinner. I honestly believe I had fever. So I quickly showered and hopped (more like dragged my legs) to bed at around 9pm -- normally I go to sleep around 11:30pm. Woke up this morning feeling very much refreshed. I slept for about 9 hours, which is about 2 hours more than I have been sleeping for the past few weeks. The fever was gone and all tiredness had disappeared!

[Actually I think the reason for the headache was just physical tiredness: helped a friend moved this past Saturday, played 3 hours of football and basketball on Sunday, biked to work both Monday and Tuesday, and tried to workout on both days too...]

No comments:

Post a Comment