The science of sleep
DR NATWAR SHARMA shares some thoughts on our current sleep crisis, and why it is a good idea to get a good night’s sleep.
Sleep is defined as an altered state of consciousness wherein the sensory and motor systems are relatively inhibited.
Why do we need sleep?
Most of us living in cities have a lot of mental activity, but our physical activity is almost zero. Especially with all these gadgets available, there is no need to travel and we can sit at one place and work. At the same time, the mind is hyper-stimulated. There is so much to do today, so much to catch up on: movies, TV, social media. And how much time is consumed on WhatsApp!
Why do we need sleep? Now when we look at the animal world, we see how beautifully they’re aligned with nature. By sunset they fall asleep, and with the first rays of the sun you can hear the birds chirping. As human beings what has gone wrong with us?
We too have a circadian clock, which helps us to wake up and sleep. The hormone melatonin is responsible for this, and light basically inhibits the secretion of this hormone. We are exposed to a lot of artificial light today. Even after sunset, there is light all around. Also, most of us don’t follow sleep hygiene: we are awake – on our mobile phones, watching TV or just surfing. Imagine the amount of light entering our eyes, not allowing the melatonin hormone to be secreted and function properly.
What happens as a result of all this? Gradually stress builds up. We use our mobile phone throughout the day, recharge it at night, and the next day it is ready to be used again. The same is the case with our body: it needs to be recharged. In many cases, even if our body is not completely recharged, we can push ourselves because there are additional mechanisms. It is like having a back-up battery in your mobile phone. But in order to make that happen, there is a lot of extra load on the body’s mechanisms and that’s when stress builds up.
What is needed in today’s scenario is to create a balance in our lives. On the one hand we need to have some physical activity in order to tire our body, while on the other we need to reduce mental stimulation especially after sunset. It is not possible to avoid stress in today’s world; stress has become part of life. But how can we manage stress?
Apart from indulging in physical activities, we may practice techniques like relaxation and meditation. They help the mind to calm down and induce much better sleep.
Sleep is a very important aspect of our lives, which we ignore. Please think over this. I wish you all a good night’s sleep!
Article by DR NATWAR SHARMA
April 30, 2020
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