Sleep can keep you healthy and it just feels good

Merced Sun-Star - - Community - BY JOHN SPEVAK [email protected] John Spevak is a res­i­dent of Los Banos; he wrote this for the Los Banos En­ter­prise. Email [email protected]

It’s not too late in 2019 to make a res­o­lu­tion. I have one that I think ev­ery­one will agree with. Sleep more. I love to sleep. I en­joy sleep­ing eight hours at night. I relish mid-af­ter­noon naps. For a long time I thought I was just be­ing lazy, un­til I re­cently read a book that ex­plained that I was clearly en­gaged in an ac­tiv­ity es­sen­tial to my health.

Af­ter read­ing “Why We Sleep: Un­lock­ing the Power of Sleep and Dreams” by Matthew Walker, I dis­cov­ered that re­search con­cludes suf­fi­cient sleep en­ables a body to re­lax, recharge and re­ju­ve­nate. Sleep­ing is also a balm to the jagged emo­tions we feel dur­ing the day and a time for our minds to heal.

While we sleep, Walker ex­plains, our dream­ing is crit­i­cally im­por­tant to our men­tal health and acu­ity. Dur­ing dream-rich REM (rapid eye move­ment) sleep, our brains are more creative than when we’re awake. And dream­ing en­ables us to solve puz­zling prob­lems bet­ter than when we’re awake.

Wow, I thought, this is my kind of book! It ex­plains and de­fends some­thing I’ve done a third of my life and highly val­ued. As I read more, I re­al­ized that get­ting enough sleep is crit­i­cally im­por­tant to ev­ery­one, from in­fants to se­nior cit­i­zens.

For skep­ti­cal read­ers, I want to em­pha­size the au­thor of this book has some im­pres­sive cre­den­tials. He is a pro­fes­sor of neu­ro­science and psy­chol­ogy at the UC Berke­ley and has worked in sleep sci­ence for more than a dozen years. In con­junc­tion with many re­search col­leagues at uni­ver­si­ties through­out the world, he has con­ducted hun­dreds of sleep ex­per­i­ments.

I’ve long felt that sleep de­pri­va­tion is a per­va­sive con­di­tion of our so­ci­ety and has se­ri­ous neg­a­tive con­se­quences, But I had never be­fore re­al­ized the im­por­tance of get­ting a good night’s sleep (eight hours or more) to our phys­i­cal and men­tal health. A truly good night’s sleep might be the most valu­able and least ex­pen­sive heath prac­tice we can do.

Writ­ing in a per­son­able and clear style, Walker ex­plains a great deal about the im­por­tance of sleep, in­clud­ing the early NREM (non-rapid eye move­ment) sleep cy­cle, which does as much to heal our bod­ies as the later REM sleep does to re­ju­ve­nate our minds.

He writes about the dan­gers of in­suf­fi­cient sleep, cit­ing re­search show­ing that those who sleep fewer than 7 hours sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease their risks for a va­ri­ety of ill­nesses, in­clud­ing can­cer, Alzheimer’s and even colds. And no one can “make up” for lost sleep. Once it’s lost, it’s gone.

Not many peo­ple get 8 hours of sleep each night. The ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans get much less, in­clud­ing chil­dren, teenagers, se­nior cit­i­zens, peo­ple who com­mute long dis­tances and per­sons who work in ca­reers like law en­force­ment and, yes, medicine.

Walker stren­u­ously ar­gues against the typ­i­cal prac­tice of in­terns and res­i­dents work­ing such long shifts that they get lit­tle sleep, putting pa­tients at risk.

There are too many facts, ex­pla­na­tion and wis­dom in this book to men­tion in a short col­umn. Each page brought a new ex­per­i­ment or con­clu­sion I found en­light­en­ing. Other im­por­tant ideas:

Sleep is es­pe­cially

• im­por­tant for young chil­dren, whose brains are form­ing.

Sleep is crit­i­cally im­por­tant

• for teens, as their brains de­velop. How­ever, at a time in their lives when they should be sleep­ing more, to­day’s teenagers are sleep­ing less. Early start times in high schools work against young peo­ple, de­priv­ing them of the sleep they need to suc­ceed.

Our bed­rooms should • be screen­less, rel­a­tively dark and cool. Turn­ing our minds off and our tem­per­a­ture down sig­nif­i­cantly helps our chances of fall­ing and stay­ing asleep.

For those who want to see many help­ful ideas, I sug­gest the ap­pen­dix, in which Walker gives 12 tips for health­ier sleep. But no one should skip through this book; in­stead, readi it with a high­lighter in hand, to bet­ter ab­sorb and re­mem­ber all the points Walker makes.

You’ll soon re­al­ize that when peo­ple call you a sleepy­head, you can take it as a com­pli­ment, as I do. And you’ll re­solve to sleep more.

IN MEMORIAM – Los Banos lost one of its most creative and pro­lific artists when Elna Ped­er­son passed away. She was a kind, car­ing and light­hearted per­son. One of her sig­na­ture works is the large tile mu­ral in the en­trance of the Los Banos Cam­pus of Merced Col­lege, de­pict­ing on one wall the his­tory of Los Banos.


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