By: Christian Emmanuel T. Lim, MD, FPNA
WORLD SLEEP DAY was celebrated last March 19, 2021. In our country the celebrations was spearheaded by the Philippine Society of Sleep Medicine thru a Lay Fora which was broadcast live thru Facebook.
Sleep is so mundane, why celebrate it? Sleep is defined as a familiar yet inexplicable condition of repose – when consciousness is in abeyance – but easily reversible. We all sleep – we all understand and appreciate its importance to our health and well being. However, we need to recognize that certain people in our community have problems with sleep: some sleep too much, others too little.
The physiology of sleep lies in the human circadian rhythm; under neural control, melatonin is naturally released by the pineal gland based on light dark cycle and the homeostatic drive to sleep as the day wears on kicks in. The question that bothers most is: “what is the correct number of sleeping hours?” It is said that a newborn sleeps between 16 – 20 hours, and as we grow wiser into late adulthood sleep may last all but 6.5 hours. The answer to the question is really easy. The number of hours one needs to sleep is the length of time is that makes them feel refreshed on waking up. This varies between individuals, and should not be a concern as long as you wake up refreshed, and ready for the day – you slept enough.
The question of why sleep? Popper and Eccles said: “sleep is a natural unconsciousness that we do not even know the reason for.” The reason one sleeps is body restitution and repair, facilitation of motor function (ones ability to move), and the consolidation of learning and memory. The deprivation of sleep results in increasing sleepiness, fatigue, irritability and difficulty concentration – decreasing in ones quality of life.
Disorders of sleep include: (1) Insomnia – chronic inability to sleep despite adequate opportunity to do so, (2) Restless leg syndrome – unpleasant aching and drawing sensations in the calves and thighs, often associated with creeping or crawling feelings provoked by rest and relieved by movement; (3) Disorders of sleep associated with changes in circadian rhythm – which are common in shift workers (ie call center agents, security guards, nurses, etc); (4) Night terrors and nightmares; and (5) Somnambolism or sleep walking (6) Narcolepsy – attacks of irresistible sleepiness, (7) Cataplexy – temporary paralysis of muscles during bouts of laughter anger or extreme emotional states and (8) Sleep apnea which may be obstructive or central in cause to name a few. These disorders needs to be properly investigated and proper intervention done to promote a good quality of sleep.
We can all participate in the celebration of World Sleep Day by practicing good sleep hygiene. This is through regularizing one’s daily schedule including bedtime and waking up at the same time every day. It is advised to avoid daytime naps if one has difficulty sleeping at night. Physical activity results in an increase in the release of good hormones, as well as tires one’s body allowing a good night’s sleep. It is also advised to avoid strenuous activities, deep thinking, as well as television and gadget use when nearing bedtime. Avoid clock-watching, when you sleep do not keep checking the clock. Intake of alcohol may make you sleepy, but the quality of sleep is poor – thus avoid it at night.
In youth, sleep seemed like a waste – competing with other fun things, as one grows in age and wisdom, a good sleep seems like a rarity than an a nightly companion. Let us practice good sleep hygiene and sleep would certainly be your friend once again.