Monday, March 31, 2008

A Meditation on Sleep & Some Interesting Facts About It

Over the past year or two, I’ve come to realize, more and more, the importance of sleep. In youth, sleep is hardly a large concern and is often taken for granted in most cases. But once you grow older and things start to slow down with job, stress, and age, sleep becomes that silver lining that highlights the twilight clouds of later life.

Those with sleep apnea have it harder than others. Those with insomnia can take their situation as either a gift or a curse, depending on how they see it. For me, who happens to have a little bit of each, I see it this way—in any place that you might be, in any age that you happen to be, the simplest things that you take for granted now will hardly ever remain that way in the future. Because, although God didn’t need to rest on the seventh day of Creation, He did it anyway, not only to enjoy Himself, but also to be an example for us.

To have needs is to be a part of creation, but to rightfully cherish those needs is to ultimately acknowledge the Creator beyond it.

Sleep Facts (Taken from “The National Sleep Research Project”)

-The record for the longest period without sleep is 18 days, 21 hours, 40 minutes during a rocking chair marathon. The record holder reported hallucinations, paranoia, blurred vision, slurred speech and memory and concentration lapses.

- Anything less than five minutes to fall asleep at night means you're sleep deprived. The ideal is between 10 and 15 minutes, meaning you're still tired enough to sleep deeply, but not so exhausted you feel sleepy by day.

- REM sleep occurs in bursts totaling about 2 hours a night, usually beginning about 90 minutes after falling asleep.

- Dreams, once thought to occur only during REM sleep, also occur (but to a lesser extent) in non-REM sleep phases. It's possible there may not be a single moment of our sleep when we are actually dreamless.

- REM dreams are characterized by bizarre plots, but non-REM dreams are repetitive and thought-like, with little imagery - obsessively returning to a suspicion you left your mobile phone somewhere, for example.

- Some scientists believe we dream to fix experiences in long-term memory, that is, we dream about things worth remembering. Others reckon we dream about things worth forgetting - to eliminate overlapping memories that would otherwise clog up our brains.

- Scientists have not been able to explain a 1998 study showing a bright light shone on the backs of human knees can reset the brain's sleep-wake clock.

- Seventeen hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol-level of 0.05%.

- The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska, the Challenger space shuttle disaster and the Chernobyl nuclear accident have all been attributed to human errors in which sleep-deprivation played a role.

- Tiny luminous rays from a digital alarm clock can be enough to disrupt the sleep cycle even if you do not fully wake. The light turns off a "neural switch" in the brain, causing levels of a key sleep chemical to decline within minutes.

- To drop off we must cool off; body temperature and the brain's sleep-wake cycle are closely linked. That's why hot summer nights can cause a restless sleep. The blood flow mechanism that transfers core body heat to the skin works best between 18 and 30 degrees. But later in life, the comfort zone shrinks to between 23 and 25 degrees - one reason why older people have more sleep disorders.

- Ducks at risk of attack by predators are able to balance the need for sleep and survival, keeping one half of the brain awake while the other slips into sleep mode.

- Ten per cent of snorers have sleep apnea, a disorder which causes sufferers to stop breathing up to 300 times a night and significantly increases the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

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