Better Brain - Be the best you can be!
Are you tired, stressed, seldom wake up feeling rested, wake up frequently during the night, have insomnia, fall asleep during the day, can't switch off, taking longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep, waking up before sunrise and can't get back to sleep, or sleeps too much?
 
Sleep deprivation decreases brain activity and limits access to learning, memory, and concentration. A recent brain imaging study showed that people who consistently slept less than 7 hours had overall less brain activity. Getting enough sleep is essential to brain function.
 
Sleep affects your mood and your health! It is vital to replenish our energy every day and most healing takes place while our body sleeps. Not getting enough sleep can cause depression and can contribute to a whole range of psychological disorders.Most of the time it's the best starting position to help any other illness.
 
Sleeping facts:
 
What is the average sleep one needs?
According to the National Institutes of Health, the average adult sleeps less than 7 hours per night. In today’s fast-paced society, 6 or 7 hours of sleep may sound pretty good. In reality, it’s a recipe for chronic sleep deprivation. Below is a table to indicate what is the averages one need for a proper nights rest:
 
Age
Hours
Newborns (0-2 months)
14-18
Infants (3 months to 1 year)
14-15
Toddlers (1 to 3 years)12 -
12-14
Preschoolers (3 to 5 years)11 -
11-13
School-aged children (5 to 12 years)
10-11
Teens and preteens (12 to 18 years)
8.5-10
Adults (18+)
7.5-9
Can you cope on 6 hours of sleep?
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco discovered that some people have a gene that enables them to do well on 6 hours of sleep a night. But the gene is very rare, appearing in less than 3% of the population. For the other 97% of us, six hours doesn’t come close to cutting it.
 
Are you sleep deprived? Do you:
  • Need an alarm clock  to wake you in the morning?
  • Hit that snooze button too many times?
  • Don't want to get out of bed?
  • Feel sluggish in the afternoon?
  • Get sleepy in meetings, lectures, or warm rooms?
  • Get drowsy after heavy meals or when driving?
  • Need to nap to get through the day?
  • Fall asleep while watching TV or relaxing in the evening?
  • Feel the need to sleep in on weekends?
  • Does it take you less than 5 minutes to fall asleep?
 
 
Why not sleeping pills?
According to a recent study sleeping pills were linked to early death, an 35% increased risk of cancer. The risk of developing lymphoma, lung, colon or prostate cancer associated with sleeping pills was greater than the effect from smoking, says the study’s lead author, Dr. Daniel Kripke, co-director of research at the Scripps Clinic.
 
The sleep we get as a result of taking sleeping pills is not like normal sleep. Most sleeping pills induce sleep by depressing brain function as a whole. As a result, the quality of sleep produced is different from normal sleep.
Most healthy people spend about a quarter of their total sleep time in REM sleep. When you take sleeping pills, REM can drop to as little as a tenth of total sleep time in the beginning. As you continue to take the pills for a few weeks, the proportion of REM will gradually return to normal.
 
The proportion of deep sleep is also seriously affected by sleeping drugs. Some people who take sleeping pills spend as little as 5%five per cent of their total sleep time in deep sleep.
 
Some sleeping tablets, such as barbiturates suppress REM sleep, which can be harmful over a long period.
 
In insomnia following bereavement, sleeping pills can disrupt grieving.
 
Interesting facts from the ABC's National Sleep Research Project:
  • Ten per cent of snorers have sleep apnoea, 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.
  • Some studies suggest women need up to an hour's extra sleep a night compared to men, and not getting it may be one reason women are much more susceptible to depression than men.
  • 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.
  • It's impossible to tell if someone is really awake without close medical supervision. People can take cat naps with their eyes open without even being aware of it.
  • A new baby typically results in 400-750 hours lost sleep for parents in the first year
  • REM dreams are characterised 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.
  • REM sleep may help developing brains mature. Premature babies have 75 per cent REM sleep, 10 per cent more than full-term bubs. Similarly, a newborn kitten, puppy, rat or hampster experiences only REM sleep, while a newborn guinea pig (which is much more developed at birth) has almost no REM sleep at all.
  • 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.
  • British Ministry of Defence researchers have been able to reset soldiers' body clocks so they can go without sleep for up to 36 hrs. Tiny optical fibres embedded in special spectacles project a ring of bright white light (with a spectrum identical to a sunrise) around the edge of soldiers' retinas, fooling them into thinking they have just woken up. The system was first used on US pilots during the bombing of Kosovo.
  • Seventeen hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol-level of 0.05%. 
  • Exposure to noise at night can suppress immune function even if the sleeper doesn’t wake. Unfamiliar noise, and noise during the first and last two hours of sleep, has the greatest disruptive effect on the sleep cycle.
  • The "natural alarm clock" which enables some people to wake up more or less when they want to is caused by a burst of the stress hormone adrenocorticotropin. Researchers say this reflects an unconscious anticipation of the stress of waking up.
  • 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.
  • Diaries from the pre-electric-light-globe Victorian era show adults slept nine to 10 hours a night with periods of rest changing with the seasons in line with sunrise and sunsets.
  • The extra-hour of sleep received when clocks are put back at the start of daylight in Canada has been found to coincide with a fall in the number of road accidents.
 
What is the effects of sleep deprivation and chronic lack of sleep?
  • Fatigue, lethargy, and lack of motivation
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Reduced creativity and problem-solving skills
  • Inability to cope with stress
  • Reduced immunity; frequent colds and infections
  • Concentration and memory problems
  • Weight gain
  • Impaired motor skills and increased risk of accidents
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems
  • Sleep-deprived people who are tested by using a driving simulator or by performing a hand-eye coordination task perform as badly as or worse than those who are intoxicated.
  • Sleep deprivation also magnifies alcohol's effects on the body, so a fatigued person who drinks will become much more impaired than someone who is well-rested.
  • Driver fatigue is responsible for an estimated 100,000 motor vehicle accidents and 1500 deaths each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 
  • Caffeine and other stimulants cannot overcome the effects of severe sleep deprivation. The National Sleep Foundation says that if you have trouble keeping your eyes focused, if you can't stop yawning, or if you can't remember driving the last few miles, you are probably too drowsy to drive safely.
  • Activity in parts of the brain that control emotions, decision-making processes, and social interactions is drastically reduced during deep sleep, suggesting that this type of sleep may help people maintain optimal emotional and social functioning while they are awake.
Sleep disorders costing Australia $5.1 billion a year
A new economic report commissioned by the Sleep Health Foundation released on 2 Feb 2012 reveals sleep disorders cost the Australian economy more than $5.1 billion a year in health care and indirect costs. In addition, the reduction in life quality caused by sleep disorders has a further cost equivalent of $31.4 billion a year. The report, 'Re-awakening Australia – The Economic Cost of Sleep Disorders in Australia' highlights more than 1.5 million Australian adults, 9% of the adult population, now suffer from sleep disorders, including sleep apnoea, insomnia and restless leg syndrome.
According to Proffessor Hillman, chairman of the Sleep Health Foundation, about 5 % of heart disease and high blood pressure and 10 % of depression is attributable to sleep disorders.
"And then of course workplace accidents and productivity losses and for that matter losses of life quality.
What happens to my brain when I sleep?
Neurotransmitters control whether we are asleep or awake by acting on different groups of nerve cells in the brain. Neurons in the brainstem, which connects the brain with the spinal cord, produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine that keep some parts of the brain active while we are awake. Other neurons at the base of the brain begin signaling when we fall asleep. These neurons appear to "switch off" the signals that keep us awake. Research also suggests that a chemical called adenosine builds up in our blood while we are awake and causes drowsiness. This chemical gradually breaks down while we sleep.
 
During sleep, we usually pass through five phases of sleep: stages 1, 2, 3, 4, and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. These stages progress in a cycle from stage 1 to REM sleep, then the cycle starts over again with stage 1.
We spend almost 50% of our total sleep time in stage 2 sleep, about 20% in REM sleep, and the remaining 30% in the other stages. Infants, by contrast, spend about half of their sleep time in REM sleep.
 
During stage 1, which is light sleep, we drift in and out of sleep and can be awakened easily. Our eyes move very slowly and muscle activity slows. People awakened from stage 1 sleep often remember fragmented visual images. Many also experience sudden muscle contractions called hypnic myoclonia, often preceded by a sensation of starting to fall. These sudden movements are similar to the "jump" we make when startled.
 
When we enter stage 2 sleep, our eye movements stop and our brain waves (fluctuations of electrical activity that can be measured by electrodes) become slower, with occasional bursts of rapid waves called sleep spindles (waves at 12 - 14Hz).
 
In stage 3, extremely slow brain waves called delta wavesbegin to appear, interspersed with smaller, faster waves.
 
By stage 4, the brain produces delta waves almost exclusively. It is very difficult to wake someone during stages 3 and 4, which together are called deep sleep. There is no eye movement or muscle activity. People awakened during deep sleep do not adjust immediately and often feel groggy and disoriented for several minutes after they wake up. Some children experience bedwetting, night terrors, or sleepwalking during deep sleep.
 
When we switch into REM sleep, our breathing becomes more rapid, irregular, and shallow, our eyes jerk rapidly in various directions, and our limb muscles become temporarily paralyzed. Our heart rate increases, our blood pressure rises, and males develop penile erections. When people awaken during REM sleep, they often describe bizarre and illogical tales – dreams.
 
A complete sleep cycle takes 90 to 110 minutes on average.
 
The first sleep cycles each night contain relatively short REM periods and long periods of deep sleep. As the night progresses, REM sleep periods increase in length while deep sleep decreases. By morning, people spend nearly all their sleep time in stages 1, 2, and REM.
 
If our REM sleep is disrupted one night, our bodies don't follow the normal sleep cycle progression the next time we doze off. Instead, we often slip directly into REM sleep and go through extended periods of REM until we "catch up" on this stage of sleep.
 
People awakened after sleeping more than a few minutes are usually unable to recall the last few minutes before they fell asleep. This sleep-related form of amnesia is the reason people often forget telephone calls or conversations they've had in the middle of the night. It also explains why we often do not remember our alarms ringing in the morning if we go right back to sleep after turning them off.
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