Understanding Sleep

If you ever feel sleepy or “zone out” during the day, or just find it hard to wake up on Monday mornings, you are familiar with the powerful need for sleep. But you may not realize that sleep is as essential to your well-being as food and water.

The mysteries of sleep have intrigued scientists and researchers for centuries. Up until the 1950s most people thought of sleep as a passive part of our daily lives. However now we know our brains are very active while we’re asleep. We know this because thousands of people have slept attached to wires and recording devices in sleep centers and laboratories around the world, where brain wave activity is measured by electroencephalograph or EEG. The sleep watchers/researchers learn things that a thousand years of common sense never told us.

Essential to Life

Sleep is essential to life. If left untreated, rare diseases that prevent sleep always end badly for the patient. Symptoms of sleep deprivation begin with stupor, proceed to coma, and finally death. In one study rats that would normally live 3 years in a lab died within 3 weeks when they were deprived of sleep.

Worse than Drugs or Alcohol

Likewise many studies make it clear that sleep deprivation is very dangerous. In laboratories, sleep-deprived people were tested by using a driving simulator. They performed as badly or worse than people who are intoxicated. Sleep deprivation also magnifies the effects of alcohol and other drugs on the body. A fatigued person who drinks will become much more impaired than someone who is well-rested and drinks. Driver fatigue alone is responsible for an estimated 100,000 motor vehicle accidents, 71,000 injuries and 1,500 traffic deaths each year.

Disaster Drowsiness

Drowsiness is the brain’s precursor just prior to falling asleep. If one drives while drowsy the result can be disasterous. If you can’t keep your eyes open and focused, if you can’t stop yawning, if you can’t remember the last few miles, you are probably too drowsy to continue driving.

In addition to obvious traffic accidents caused by lack of sleep, the consequences of sleep loss are significant. The Exxon-Valdez oil spill on the coast of Alaska is just one historic tragedy linked to fatigue-related hman error. But there have been many train and plane crashes attributed to lack of sleep.

Maintain Mood and Memory

So why is sleep so important? Although we naturally think of sleep as a time of rest and recovery from the stresses of everyday life, research tells us that sleep is a dynamic acitivity during which many processes vital to our physical health and well-being take place. Evidence shows that sleep is essential to help maintain mood, memory and cognitive performance.

This report is not a diagnosis. We hope this information can guide you toward improving your life.

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