Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The importance of sleep

As you may have gathered from previous posts, I love my sleep. Let me emphasize this point, I LOVE SLEEP partially because without it I am far from pleasant, probably on par with Godzilla! People who don't need very much sleep boggle my mind, and I might argue that they just aren't part of the true human race. Personally, I am similar to a lion in that I would prefer to sleep most of the day only waking for important events such as eating, grooming and relaxing. Lions sleep up to 20 hours a day and that sounds just about purrrfect, doesn't it. Ok so I don't think I could actually sleep that long as my body prefers 8 to 9 1/2 hours a sleep per night, but doesn't the lion's life have an appealing ring to it besides the hunting gazelles and eating them raw part? I chose to write about the topic of sleep however because of a discussion, a rather impassioned discussion, maybe a little too impassioned on my part about the importance of sleep. One of the teachers mentioned to me the other day that one of her students wasn't very excitable and she asked her what was wrong. The student replied that she didn't get any sleep. She had gone to school all day, then to her hagwon (private English school), didn't arrive home until 1 am and then had homework until 4 am in the morning before having to get up in the morning only to repeat the whole process all over again. I was horrified, absolutely dumb-struck at the absurdity of a sixth grade girl getting such few hours of sleep in order to remain competitive in Korea. At 12 years old, I was in bed by 10 pm if not earlier and still struggled to get up in the morning for school. But one of the things that alarmed me the most was how unhealthy it was for a young adolescent girl to be getting so little sleep. Inadequate sleep is correlated with many problems such as weight gain, depression, mood, safety, inefficiencies in academics that we often attribute to other areas in our lives.
Harmful to Growth

A study by researches at the University of Philadelphia has revealed that even children are suffering from lack of sleep and this may be harming their growth. The researchers at the University compared the sleep patterns in young children from Caucasian and Asian countries. Dr Jodi Mindell of St Josephs University in Philadelphia revealed that children from United States went to bed by 8.52 pm, while children in Asian countries were being sent to bed by 10 pm or later.
Children from India get 8 hours of sleep every night, while children from New Zealand slept for 10.5 hours a night. Dr. Mindell revealed that lesser duration of sleep hurts the growth of kids. Inadequate sleep affects the carbohydrate metabolism in children and caused impaired glucose tolerance. This impaired tolerance in turn affects the secretion of hormones that regulates fat storage. These developments will ultimately result in kids gaining weight. Lack of sleep will also mean less hormone secretion that can stunt growth. This is owing to the fact, that the growth hormone which is released by the pituitary gland is secreted during sleep. The study was presented on June 11 at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, in Baltimore called Sleep 2008.

Sleepy teens have more car accidents, are more likely to be obese, and are more likely to be depressed or anxious than kids who get enough sleep. Plus, sleep is physically restorative, so teens that don’t get enough impact their growth, hormones and metabolism.

Harmful to Academic performance
A new study has shown that getting more high-quality sleep positively impacts academic performance, especially in maths. The study's authors say that the findings provide overwhelming evidence of the importance of sleep during a period of development that is critical in adolescents, and highlight the importance of the development of sleep intervention programs for students in order to improve existing problems with sleep and daily functioning. (ANI)

In the March/April issue of Child Development, it was reported that one extra hour of sleep significantly improved school performance. Children with an added hour of sleep significantly improved their performance on tests assessing attention span and memory; children who lost an hour of sleep performed significantly poorer than they had before they were sleep-deprived.
Depression and Suicide

The findings are the first to examine bedtimes' effects on kids' mental health — and the results are noteworthy. Middle- and high-schoolers whose parents don't require them to be in bed before midnight on school nights are 42% more likely to be depressed than teens whose parents require a 10 p.m. or earlier bedtime. And teens who are allowed to stay up late are 30% more likely to have had suicidal thoughts in the past year.

"We feel like we can just eat into our sleep time," he says, "but we pay for it in many different ways."

Teenagers, sleep problems and drugs

According to a long-term study published in the 2004 April issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, young teenagers whose preschool sleep habits were poor were more than twice as likely to use drugs, tobacco or alcohol. This finding was made by the University of Michigan Health System as part of a family health study that followed 257 boys and their parents for 10 years. The study found a significant connection between sleep problems in children and later drug use, even when other issues such as depression, aggression, attention problems and parental alcoholism were taken into account. Long-term data on girls isn't available yet. The researchers suggest that early sleep problems may be a "marker" for predicting later risk of early adolescent substance abuse—and that there may be a common biological factor underlying both traits. Although the relationship between sleep problems and the abuse of alcohol in adults is well known, this is the first study to look at the issue in children.

The Harvard Women’s Health Watch suggests six reasons to get enough sleep:

  1. Learning and memory: Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later.
  2. Metabolism and weight: Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.
  3. Safety: Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps, and road accidents.
  4. Mood: Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.
  5. Cardiovascular health: Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.
  6. Disease: Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.

One teacher begged the question of whether all of this stress and excess studying was actually bringing Korea the results it desired. I don't know the answer and I would love to hear anyone else's opinion on the matter. Another teacher brought up the point that maybe the importance of sleep differs culturally and argued that possibly Korean children didn't actually need as much sleep as other children in other countries, as they have grown up in different environments. Most research I had read in the past had been conducted in the U.S.A as far as I knew so I couldn't dispute the validity of her argument. And to be honest, I still have yet to find any definitive answers that agree or disagree with this possible argument, besides that individuals can differ on the amount of sleep they need, but research across cultures seem to agree on the importance of sleep.
Below is a snippet of an article that comes from the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics which seems to suggest that sleep issues are not individual to one country or even one continent but runs rampant across the globe. As you can see I searched for sleep and differences in cultures and it helpfully highlighted my keywords within the article which did not disappear when I copied and pasted this section into the blog.
Many types of pediatric sleep problems are common to both Western and Eastern cultures. These problems include bedtime resistance, night wakings, inadequate sleep, and daytime sleepiness. Although prevalence rates may vary and the etiologic and contributing factors may differ somewhat across cultures, the similarities are often more striking than the differences. In particular, specific sleep issues that were perceived as being universally present across cultures included insufficient sleep in both school-aged children and adolescents, the influence of television and other electronic media on sleep behavior, the impact of academic demands and school schedules, and the integration of sleep practices with family lifestyles. The heavy emphasis on academic achievement in many cultures and intense competition for school placements and jobs was a commonly cited reason for insufficient sleep at many levels, which may imply some degree of "homogenization" across cultures, especially in urban areas (which tend to look quite different from the more rural and thus less "Westernized" areas in terms of sleep problems). There is universal agreement that sleep problems impact on children's health, learning and school performance, and quality of life, as well as on the family. In addition, there is increasing recognition that inadequate sleep may coexist with other unhealthy behaviors such as tobacco and alcohol use. The level of awareness of both practitioners and parents of the interaction between poor sleep and poor functioning/poor health also varies widely. There was a general acknowledgment among the participants that sleep problems are fundamentally a public health issue and need to be addressed as such.

So there is my speal. I may have gotten a little overzealous in my research or with sharing my impassioned zeal with you. I apologize if I have gone a little overboard and you feel that you are drowning in statistics. I have always loved my sleep and I love that I am justified in my attempts at getting an adequate amount of beauty sleep. Sleep is not for the weak, but for the strong!


Peter and Leslie said...

Okay, I have to admit that I didn't read this whole post. But, I have to wholeheartedly agree- sleeping only to wake up for important events like relaxing would ideal for me! You know how much I love sleep. I think that's why I love cats... we have that in common (me and the cats loving sleep).

Cairo Typ0 said...

Sleep is one of my favourite things. I love it when i can sleep until i wake up naturally. It doesn't happen very often but when it does, it's blissful.

Ronnica said...

You don't have to tell me...I love sleep! My problem is sometimes wanting to stay up too late...I always regret it the next day!

bettyl said...

That's a lot of connections to lack of sleep. I have always been one that needs more sleep than others.

Unknown Mami said...

I love my sleep and I think it is essential for my well-being. In the last year I had a baby and I have never been so sleep deprived in my life. I used to be relatively smart, now I am a commplete idiot. I am the lady who forgot her wallet at the supermarket and just stands at check-out looking dumbfounded.

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