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Sleep: An underrated superhero

www.sentinelassam.com | July 7, 2022
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With sleep and dreaming often going hand in hand, did you know that before colour television was in mass distribution, only about 15 per cent of people dreamt of colour? A study conducted by Murzyn (2008) found that most people were otherwise found to have dreamt in greyscale. This means that your grandparents could have been dreaming in greyscale!

With sleep-aiding in the regulation of our health and well-being throughout our lives, getting adequate sleep, both in terms of quantity and quality, is very important for the body and mind (Baldwin &Daughtery, 2004). One could be lying in bed for several hours, but if they have not slept well, then that sleep is pointless (Barber & Munz, 2011). How one feels when they are awake and alert, depends on what happens while they are asleep (Barnes et al., 2013).

Sleep, as integral to health as food and water, is intrinsically sensitive to the external environment – ambient sounds, light, and air quality, as well as the contextual features around the sleeping space (Basner et al., 2007). The ability to relax the body and mind to allow sleep may be affected by the sense of comfort and safety of the surrounding environment. With adequate sleep having the ability to flush out toxins commonly associated with Alzheimer's, it can be assumed that proper sleep plays a vital role in slowing down neurodegeneration (Xie et al., 2013).

During sleep, the body aids and enhances healthy brain functioning and maintains physical health. Considering the stress levels and the workload expected to be completed daily in today's workforce, sleep is vital for enhanced performance and as such, the consequences of inadequate sleep are drastic. Studies have shown that the damage from poor sleep can occur in an instant (car crash) or over time (deteriorating productivity, alertness, novelty) (Carskadon, 2011).

Poor sleep health reflects sleep disorders as well as insufficient, fragmented, non-restorative or delayed sleep, which may be out of sync with internal circadian rhythms or social obligations (Wright et al., 2004). Vulnerable populations such as racial/ethnic minorities or individuals of lower socioeconomic status (SES) have a higher burden of poor sleep health, largely due to socially patterned disparities (Wright et al., 2004). Due to the above-mentioned points as well as the difference in sleep between social groups and minorities, lack of sleep can also be tied to organisational performance. In a country like India, Shah et al. (2010) found that Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders (CRSD) tend to be found in those working at BPOs (Business Processing Outsourcing). Certain groups of Indian workers can therefore be assumed to have a predisposition to certain sleep disorders.

Apart from this, Ramrakhiyani et al. (2020) found that the prevalence of sleep disorders in India is as high as 93%. With more and more Indians facing sleep deprivation, their overall functioning, be it in the workplace or their social spheres, are deteriorating. Adding to this, issues such as Shift Work Disorder is likely to be more and more common due to workers shifting to non-traditional work timings, i.e. outside the typical 9 to 5 workday (Ramrakhiyani et al., 2020).

When it comes to the relationship between sleep and age, Chaput et al. (2018) found that an ideal amount of sleep for anyone above 18, is between 7 and 9 hours, for teenagers, it ranges from 8 to 10 hours and for those between 6 and 13 years it is between 9 and 11 hours. The effect of poor sleep can be seen in the short and long term. If one has been missing 10 adequate sleep hours daily, e.g. sleeping 5 hours daily, instead of 7, it could result in 10 hours of cumulative sleep debt. Sleep literature has shown that sleep debt as well as moderate sleep loss results in poor memory, concentration and reaction times (Belenky et al., 2003).

Most of the sleep issues are usually undiagnosed and eventually left untreated; it is also interesting to know that more than 40% of adults face the problem of daytime sleepiness so severe that it interferes with their day-to-day activities for a few days every month and about close to 20% of the population report problems of daytime sleepiness a few days a week or even more (Carskadon, 2011; Roehrs & Roth, 2008).

With sleep being in close relationship with the general health of the human body, another interesting fact about sleep is that too little of it can lead to a decrease in pain threshold (Chhangani et al., 2009). Sleep is not only necessary for improved general health, but it is vital for pain sensitivity. It can therefore be assumed that good sleep leads to well-balanced mental and physical health while aiding members to better respond to external stimuli.

-Prof. Moitrayee Das, Assistant Professor - Psychology.

-Liz George, BA graduate from FLAME University with a Major in Psychology.