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Sleep - Luxury or Necessity

By Christine Darrington

Many people feel that sleep is a waste of time. They have busy lives with work and families so they try to squeeze every minute out of every day. They finally surrender to sleep when they are absolutely exhausted. The problem they are not recognizing is that when you are sleep deprived, you are forcing your body to work at a disadvantage. An exhausted body cannot work to it's full potential, mentally or physically.

Sleep studies around the world have shown that the lack of sleep affects your physical, mental, and emotional life. A study at the University of Wisconsin showed that sleep deprivation can cause a number of health problems such as depression, heart problems, and alertness while performing important tasks such as driving.. Another sleep test reported by the magazine "Science News reported that when 48 volunteers were deprived of sleep for a period of two weeks, it reduced their mental abilities. This included alertness, reaction time, and memory.

Sleep is natures way of allowing our bodies to rejuvenate. There are two stages of sleep. REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM. During REM sleep the body is able to experience complete muscle relaxation, this allows us to wake up feeling physically refreshed. REM sleep is also the time when our blood pressure and heart rate lower, and the time when our brain secretes a hormone called cortisol. Without cortisol our bodies will not have the sufficient means to combat circulatory diseases. This REM sleep is also when the circulatory system rests and this helps to avoid cardiovascular disease.

Sleep is also the time when our bodies combat and metabolize free radicals. Free radicals are the molecules that are said to increase the aging process and even cause cancer. Sleep deprivation is also linked to the lack of production of white blood cells. We all know that we need these to fight infection.

Sleep can seriously affect our appetite. Our brain interprets lack of sleep as hunger. While we sleep our bodies secrete a hormone called leptin. Leptin is what tells our brain that we are full when we eat. When we are awake for longer periods of time our bodies do not have the opportunity to produce leptin. This, in turn, causes us to feel hungry and crave carbohydrates. Thus, sleep deprivation can easily lead to another health problem, obesity.

Sleep deprivation is not just a problem here in the United States. In Portugal three out of four people report that they go to bed after midnight and still get up early and go to work. The Japanese seem to sleep the least, over forty percent report that they get six hours of sleep or less. In fact, a report on sleep deprivation from Japan reported that tests done on those who only got four to five and a half hours of sleep each night did poorly on tests that measured memory, clear thinking, and the ability to pay attention. The Australians, on the other hand, are in bed around ten o"clock and get around nine hours of sleep each night. I think they have the right idea.

Copyright 2006 Christine Darrington

About The Author
Christine Darrington - Researching nutritional solutions that boost the immune system for optimum health.

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