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Happiness is … sleep

Written By : Sun Fij Newsroom. Could you keep it down? Can’t you see we’re trying to get a little shut-eye? Sleep. It rejuvenates. It refreshes. It restores. And while
02 Aug 2008 12:00

Written By : Sun Fij Newsroom. Could you keep it down? Can’t you see we’re trying to get a little shut-eye?
Sleep. It rejuvenates. It refreshes. It restores. And while it may seem as if sleep renders us inactive, the truth is quite the contrary. Our bodies, our brains, our minds are accomplishing great things while we slumber.
Dr Nilesh Dave, medical director of the Sleep and Breathing Disorders Centre at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre, says: “When you get good-quality sleep and enough hours of it, it is amazing how much better patients’ moods are, how much better they’re functioning. They’re truly happy.”
During a series of studies in the 1980s, rats were forced to stay awake. After five days, they started dying.
In 2005, a 28-year-old South Korean man died after playing an online computer game for 50 straight hours with few breaks.
“You have a full-body collapse,” Dr Dave says. “There’s no stability in the brain. The body ends up not being able to restore itself.”
Here are some benefits of sleep:

1. It makes us better athletes
A 2008 study by the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory found that swimmers who got extra sleep swam faster, reacted quicker, improved turn time and increased kick strokes.
When basketball players underwent similar sleep studies, their performance improved dramatically, too.
Conversely, not enough sleep has the opposite effect. Studies cited in Runner’s World link longtime sleep deprivation to the following: Becoming exhausted more quickly; deterioration in physical performance; higher accumulation of lactate; impaired mental ability; increased heart rate; and a lower volume of oxygen that can be used while exercising.
Even short-term sleep loss, however, can impede glucose metabolism in certain areas of the brain, especially those connected to alertness and visual processing.
Plus, we need sleep to restore muscles exhausted during workouts.

2. It helps us deal with stress
and helps us grow
Our bodies use sleep to release certain hormones, Dave says, including those essential for growth and development. If we wake in the middle of the night, those functions are disrupted.
One example is cortisol. For people with normal sleep patterns, this stress hormone peaks around 4 am. We’re blissfully unaware because we snooze through it.
But, Dave says, “If you’re awake longer than you should be for a few days, that puts your body under stress, which leads to higher levels of cortisol.”
This, in turn, leads to higher blood pressure, more sugar in the blood (not a good thing for diabetics) and an increased appetite.
Researchers at the University of Chicago found that sleep-deprived subjects were hungry because their levels of leptin – the hormone that tells the brain when you’ve eaten enough – were low. Subjects were limited to four hours of sleep per night. After six days, they showed signs of developing diabetes.

3. It helps us remember
When you pull an all-nighter to study, you’re storing information in short-term memory, Dr Dave says. For long-term retention, you need to learn a little every day.
“During sleep, your brain will process a lot and turn it into long-term memory,” he says. “Memory is a function of what we think sleep does.”
At the Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, researchers gave 400 subjects a series of letters to type with their left hands. For those who learned the sequence in the morning and were tested 12 hours later, performance stayed pretty much the same.
But those who learned it late in the day and were tested again after a night’s sleep improved their performance by 20 to 30 per cent.

4. It is imperative for safe
Drinking and driving have long been known to be incompatible. But a 2006 study by the National Sleep Foundation and Virginia Tech Transportation Institute uncovered information equally as sobering: 80 per cent of crashes and 65 per cent of near-crashes involved some sort of “driver inattention.” In most cases, that inattention was drowsy driving.

5. It keeps us from being crabby
Think how much better you feel after a good night’s sleep.
“You can see a night-and-day difference if sleep problems are dealt with,” Dr . Dave says. “It’s a 100 per cent turnaround.”

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