Rest is the foundation of a happy and healthy life. And yet millions of people around the world are suffering from the effects of busy lifestyles, stress, overwork and fatigue. They are unable to rest, recharge and rejuvenate themselves.
Many people have lost their ability to replenish themselves through good quality sleep. Millions of people are clinically sleep-deprived or suffering from sleep disorders.
Work hard, party hard
We have become blind to the importance of sleep. “Work hard, party hard” is an accepted way of life in our modern 24/7 lifestyle. Sleep is given a low priority. It is seen as a weakness or something that gets in the way of life rather than as the foundation of a healthy and full life.
Sleep needs to be redefined as an activity to be treated with the utmost respect, like exercise and a good diet. Sleep, and our ability to relax and rest deeply, is the basis of a good life.
The following video from TED talks by Arianna Huffington, entitled “How to succeed? Get more sleep” highlights our poor attitudes to sleep and asks that we rethink our attitudes.
The National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research in America has labeled insomnia “a silent epidemic of staggering proportions”.
- 30-40% of people in the USA and Australia have insomnia and poor quality sleep each month.
- 40-70 million Americans experience either chronic or intermittent sleep-related problems costing $15 billion in health care and $50 billion in lost productivity.
- Sleeplessness is a chronic problem for one in ten Australians, over 2 million people.
Approximately 5-10% of people use prescribed sleeping pills. Another 5-10% of people use over-the-counter prescriptions. An unknown number of people use alcohol and other substances at night to try to help them sleep.
And yet these attempts to sleep well usually do not provide the deep rest and recuperation we seek.
How Much Restful Sleep Do You Need?
The amount of sleep and rest each of us needs is different. There is consensus that for the majority of people 6 hours sleep is a minimum. However, the best way to judge if you have had sufficient rest and sleep is to feel how tired you are and how you well or poorly you perform during the day.
Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Going too long without sleep diminishes your ability to function. It’s like being drunk. Extended periods of sleep deprivation result in the brain shutting down. We are unable to make accurate judgments and in extreme cases this can result in hallucinations.
Lack of rest and untreated sleep disorders:
- reduce quality of life
- lower productivity in school and workplace
- increase the chance of ill health and death from heart disease, diabetes, depression and obesity
- increase the risk of accidents associated with excessive sleepiness.
Professor Charles A Czeisler from Harvard Medical School states that in the United States 80,000 people fall asleep at the wheel every day, an average of one person every second. Every two minutes one of those people crashes.
Research is now showing that lack of rest and the resultant burnout and depletion of energy is a major factor in a number of chronic illnesses, especially in heart and blood vessel disease.
Major Sleep Research
Recent medical research from Holland (2011) studied over 20,000 men and women for over 12 years. They showed that poor quality sleep combined with insufficient sleep time is linked with a massive increased risk of heart and blood vessel disease.
Sleep and cardiovascular disease
They discovered that short sleepers (6 hours or less) had a 15% higher risk of cardiovascular disease (disease of the blood vessels) and a 23% higher risk of heart disease (coronary artery disease) compared with people with normal sleep duration (seven to eight hours).
Researchers found no association between poor quality sleep and cardiovascular disease. It was the combination of poor quality and short duration that caused the problem.
People who had a combination of poor quality sleep and short duration sleep had a massive 65% higher risk of cardiovascular disease, and an 85% higher risk of heart disease than people with a normal sleep duration and good sleep quality.
This means that insufficient good quality sleep and lack of rest leads to exhaustion, which sets up the perfect conditions for degenerative illness.
Good sleep has to be experienced most nights if we are to function to the best of our potential and remain free of disease.
Get Extra Sleep Credits
Practicing relaxation techniques like Yoga Nidra in the morning following a bad night’s sleep may prevent cardiovascular disease and heart disease. Yoga Nidra allow us to gain deep rest and this diminish the damage that occurs to the body when it is exhausted.
If you wake feeling tired or exhausted in the morning the best thing you can do is to rest deeply with Yoga Nidra before the day begins. This will give you the extra sleep credits your body needs to maintain itself and keep you healthy and relaxed.
Research paper: Hoevenaar-Blom MP, Spijkerman AMW, Kromhout D, et al. (2011) Sleep duration and sleep quality in relation to 12-year cardiovascular disease incidence: The MORGEN Study. Sleep; in press. Research paper: http://www.journalsleep.org/AcceptedPapers/SP-002-11.pdf