Sunday, 26 September 2010

Sweet Dreams

At night my household conspires against me - I can't remember the last time I had an uninterrupted sleep! If it is not my son that wakes me to settle him again at some random time in the wee hours of the morning, or my naughty puppy yelping, then I wake for seemingly no reason at all just to stare at the ceiling for what feels like hours thinking random thoughts and going over to-do lists in my mind before succumbing to sleep again - usually just getting back into that lovely, cosy deep sleep as my hubby's morning alarm goes off.

I came across the following article earlier this year.  It helped me understand the mental and physical side effects of lost sleep and it made me feel more sane - this forgetful, grumpy individual I had become was not me, just someone who needed to catch more zzz's.  I hope you find it insightful too!

A timely wake-up call on the value of getting good sleep.
Dr Malcolm Clark, Royal Auto Magazine February 2010.

If you are finding it hard to get enough sleep, you are not alone.  Victorian's are busier than ever, working longer hours, socialising and ferrying children around.  Can't we just get on with it and sleep a little less every night?
Yes, but sleeping less comes at a price.  The average adult needs to sleep for 7-9 hours to feel alert and refreshed.  We need to cycle through the four levels of sleep, and spend about 20% of our time dreaming.  Dream sleep is also called REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and is associated with saccadic movement of our eyes plus irregular breathing.  Our blood pressure rises and our brain stops sending messages to our spinal cord, leading to major loss of muscle tone (paralysis).  As a result, the cortex of our brain lights up with electrical activity.
The price of less sleep is less REM sleep, which leads to increased forgetfulness, poorer concentration and efficiency. 
We feel better, more alert and get through things more efficiently after a few good sleeps.  Sleep disturbance causes an imbalance in the brain that interferes with how we remember things, and how we feel about ourselves.  In dream sleep, our brains process parts (or all) of our day: what's happened, what's important, and how we feel about it.  If you like, dream sleep moves data from our RAM to our hard drive!  Sleep deprived people can cope for a time but become irritable, forgetful and start to develop low self-esteem.

Well, on that note I'm off to bed!  Wishing you all sweet dreams tonight :)

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