Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Canteen Fundas - Why Sleep Is the Magic Pill For Us!

 The many benefits of sleep - from Mathew Walker's 'Why We Sleep'



E-Canteen Fundas: Why losing out on sleep during exams might actually be counter-productive to learning

Get your 8 hours of sleep to get the full benefits of the restorative, healing and learning effects of sleep. A good night’s sleep aids learning, helps in healing and recharging the body, mind and sou

Zzzzs are important | (Pic: EdexLive)

‘I’m so sleepy,’ said Rahul. ‘I stayed up all night to study for today’s test.’

‘Same here,’ said Rinku. ‘I slept for a couple of hours and now I’m good to do an all-nighter again.’

‘I’ve read this book called Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker who’s researched sleep extensively,’ said Rakesh. ‘There could be certain pointers for you two. More so since Rahul enjoys his sleep a lot.’

‘Oh no, bhaiyya,’ said Rahul. ‘I’m sure the book will say I’m sleeping too much.’

‘Not at all,’ said Rakesh. ‘In fact, the author advocates a full 8-hour sleep to reap the many benefits of sleep. He says those who get less than six to seven hours of sleep, could invite health issues like a weakened immune system, obesity, cancer, Alzheimer's, cardiovascular disease, stroke and so on. So much so that World Health Organization has declared a sleep loss epidemic in industrialised nations highlighting the effects on health from lack of sleep.’

‘Whoa,’ said Rahul. ‘But we relate working hard to late, sleepless nights. Are you saying that’s not good?’

‘Absolutely,’ said Rakesh. ‘The 8-hour sleep cycle has inherent benefits built into it. The 8-hour cycle is broken down into Non-Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (NREM), Deep NREM Sleep and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep. Every individual needs all these components in the right quantity to gain the full benefits of sleep. While NREM sleep clears the mind, that is, weeds out unnecessary neural connections, fosters information transfer and distils information, REM sleep strengthens those connections. Also, since we have more NREM sleep during the early part of the 8-hour sleep and more REM sleep during the latter part of sleep — we need our full 8 hours to enjoy the complete benefit of sleep and get greater neural efficacy.’

‘Wow,’ said Rinku. ‘So, what are the benefits of getting a full night’s sleep, bhaiyya?’

‘A good 8-hour sleep enriches our ability to learn, memorise, helps with creativity, helps make logical decisions, calibrates brain circuits, helps us heal through dreams, brings greater emotional stability, restores our immune system and helps fight malignancy and infection. So you see, you get all that and more, while doing something you enjoy.’

‘Can I get my 8 hours at any time?’ asked Rahul. ‘My parents say I should get up early but I prefer staying up late.’

‘Yes, of course,’ said Rakesh. ‘We have different rhythms — like morning larks and night owls. About 40% of us are morning types, 30% are evening types and the rest fall in between.’

‘And bhaiyya,’ said Rinku. ‘Sleep helps with learning too?’

‘Yes, according to the author, there is a 40% learning difference between a sleep-deprived person and a person who got a full night’s sleep,’ said Rakesh. ‘Even a 90-minute nap ‘before learning’ prepares the brain to soak up new information, causing a 20% learning advantage over those who did not nap. Similarly, sleeping ‘after learning’, helps 'save' newly created files. By sleeping less than 6 hours we shortchange the brain of this learning restoration benefit. Sleep selectively boosts words tagged to 'remember' and avoids memories tagged to 'forget'. Furthermore, it is proven that the practice of a game or a music piece followed by a night of sleep led to improved performance. As for you two, staying up all night before exams has no great benefit because you tend to forget what you learned soon after. On the other hand, if you study and sleep after learning, it consolidates your learning.’

‘Bhaiyya you said sleep deprivation has many harmful effects,’ asked Rahul. ‘But we see many people going without sleep, including our leaders who claim to work without sleeping. How do we explain this?’

‘Lack of awareness of the harmful effects of sleep deprivation,’ said Rakesh. ‘Did you know that the Guinness Book of World Records recognised the dangers of sleep deprivation and has stopped sleep deprivation records? As mentioned earlier a host of health problems are related to sleep deprivation including Alzheimer's, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, suicide, stroke, cancer, diabetes, heart attack, infertility, weight loss, obesity and immune deficiency. Sleep deprivation causes emotional instability, aggressiveness and loss of concentration. We fall into micro sleep which causes accidents. While at it, for those who have no option power naps of 30-60 minutes could be a solution because they momentarily increase concentration.’

‘Wow,’ said Rinku. ‘That’s a strong case for a good sleep. Any tips on how to improve our sleep, bhaiyya?’

‘The website of the National Sleep Foundation, www.thensf.org, gives a lot of information on sleep including tips to sleep. The most important tip is to stick to a sleep schedule — go to bed and wake up at the same time. Other tips include exercising for 30 minutes but not later than two to three hours before bedtime. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, chocolate, alcohol and large meals before bed. Avoid medicines that disrupt sleep and naps after 3 pm. Make your room gadget-free, with no noises or bright lights. Don't use LED lighting on mobile, laptops or TV screens. Relax before bed — read or listen to light music. It helps to make the room dark and cool, wash your face before bed and get good mattresses plus a good pillow. Interestingly, sunlight exposure is good for sleep so get 30 minutes of sunlight exposure every day. And if you still cannot sleep, don’t simply lie in bed. Get up and do something until you fall asleep.’

‘Wow,’ said Rinku. ‘That’s certainly very useful, bhaiyya. Tonight I will get my full 8 hours of sleep and I feel good about it already.’

Pro Tip: Get your 8 hours of sleep to get the full benefits of the restorative, healing and learning effects of sleep. A good night’s sleep aids learning, helps in healing and recharging the body, mind and soul.


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