Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sleep deprivation

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!
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Tundiel said...

I failed, but only just. I scored 10. Honestly though, I was expecting it. Most nights I don't sleep very well and usually only ever have around 5 hours max of solid sleep.

Makes you think though, doesn't it? Gret blog, Natasha!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Over the years I've found sleep to be critical to my sense of well being. Bouts of insomnia disrupt my mental and physical performance, causing anxiety, mistakes, even a tendency to be unsteady on my feet. After reading your post, I'm thinking I should go take a nap (I got up earlier than usual this morning). LOL

Watery Tart said...

I'm pretty sure I need a nap.

I USUALLY sleep pretty good, but the committee in my head periodically holds meetings all night... sometimes they even sing, which annoys the crap out of me (need to avoid caffeine after noon I think)

I only got about a 4 though, so I think I'm okay.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Oh gosh. I'm an insomniac (always have been.) Sigh. I hear a lot about lack of sleep being bad for you, too. But...

Mystery Writing is Murder

Cruella Collett said...

*phew* I got a seven or eight (couldn't quite make my mind up for one of the answers). Very disturbing, though, and it makes me think I need to go to bed right away...
It doesn't say how much sleep is too much, though. I feel there is a limit in that direction as well...

Chary Johnson said...

I got an 8 which is just on the border. I don't know if it's lack of sleep but instead increased stress. Actually, could be a combination of both. Very thought provoking post!

dipali said...

I just received that forward today! And yes, I'm amazed at the alacrity with which people sacrifice sleep on a regular basis.

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mycarnation said...

I only get 5 hours of sleep amd I scored 0. Im almost 12 and no matter how hard I try my body wakes me up after 5 hour of sleep and wont let me turn back. I am almost never tired except for when I have a really busy day.

mycarnation said...

I only get 5 hours of sleep amd I scored 0. Im almost 12 and no matter how hard I try my body wakes me up after 5 hour of sleep and wont let me turn back. I am almost never tired except for when I have a really busy day.


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