Thursday, October 22, was one of those days when I just didn’t want to haul myself out of bed when the alarm clock went off. It was the last week of the school holidays, and I could have easily slept an hour longer, but I sternly told myself that nobody ever died from lack of sleep and dragged myself out of bed.
An hour later, when I returned from the gym sweaty and happy but still sleepy, my eyes were lead to a tiny news item on the front page of the newspaper – “SAP India MD Ranjan Das dies of heart attack”. Yet another case of a high flying executive who ate the wrong foods and exercised not at all, I generalized, even before reading the news item. The brief obituary proved me wrong.
According to industry sources, the man was scrupulous in his food habits, and never missed a gym routine. He had even completed a full-marathon a few months earlier. One line caught my eye – the man survived on 4 to 5 hours of sleep a day.
People did die of lack of sleep, I told myself.
In the days that followed, everyone was talking about how he pushed himself too hard in the gym. Too hard is not quantifiable, I told myself. And even if the body is pushed too hard, it does have the ability to adapt itself to the higher level of pushing.
Though I rarely spoke about it, I stuck to my theory that it was lack of sleep that had killed the man, and decided that on days when I did not want to get up early, I would skip going to the gym and sleep an hour longer.
Today, I got a forward that argued, in technical language I could barely follow, that it was lack of sleep that did the man in. some facts –
- Short sleep duration (<5 or 5-6 hours) increased risk for high BP by 350% to 500% compared to those who slept longer than 6 hours per night. Paper published in 2009.
- Young people (25-49 years of age) are twice as likely to get high BP if they sleep less. Paper published in 2006.
- Individuals who slept less than 5 hours a night had a 3-fold increased risk of heart attacks. Paper published in 1999.
- Complete and partial lack of sleep increased the blood concentrations of High sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hs-cRP), the strongest predictor of heart attacks. Even after getting adequate sleep later, the levels stayed high!!
- Just one night of sleep loss increases very toxic substances in body such as Interleukin-6 (IL-6), Tumour Necrosis Factor-Alpha (TNF-alpha) and C-reactive protein (cRP). They increase risks of many medical conditions, including cancer, arthritis andheart disease. Paper published in 2004.
- Sleeping for <=5 hours per night leads to 39% increase in heart disease. Sleeping for <=6 hours per night leads to 18% increase in heart disease. Paper published in 2006.
I haven’t checked the sources of any of these facts, but, even if only a few of them are true, it is obvious that lack of sleep is something one should be concerned about.
I know most of us push ourselves to the extreme. Spend a couple of minutes taking the Epworth Sleepiness Test –
A score of 0-9 is considered normal. Anything above that, and you may want to take a relook at your life.
Did you pass? Surprisingly (and reassuringly), I did!