Why is sleep important?

While super-seniors such as myself were young, we had to hit the bed by 8 p.m. and wake up by 4 a.m., brush teeth, take a bath and start the day with the remaining school homework, eat some breakfast, take tiffin boxes with lunch, and go to school.

We would come back home by 6 p.m. after school and play, do our homework, listen to radio/television, glance through the newspapers, have dinner and hit the bed by 8 p.m. and go to sleep. But alas, things have changed nowadays.

There are coaching classes for professional schools (e.g., IITs or ISBs) run by former professors, which are held early in the morning (usually around 4 or 5 a.m.) for aspiring students, thus cutting the amount of sleep that they need to have.

Required sleep

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has recommended that children aged 6-12 years should regularly sleep for 9-12 hours per 24 hours and teenagers aged 13-18 years should sleep for 8-10 hours per 24 hours.

As it turns out, this is not happening in today’s children, particularly since they attend classes (and a bit of relaxation) all day. And neither do their ‘coaches’ who are usually in the age range 40-70, who themselves need seven hours of sleep for a healthy life. 

In a recent commentary in the journal  Nature, Dr. J. Allan Hobson writes with the catchy Lincolnian title: “Sleep is of the brain, by the brain and for the brain”, and points out that our sleep has two stages, called one with a rapid eye movement (REM) and the other a non-REM stage. REM sleep accounts for about 20% and has dreams, while non-REM sleep is for about 80% of the time and is known to improve consolidation and to bring about improvement in strengthening memories and learning new things.

Nutrition and sleep

The site, Medicine Plus from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, states that nutrition is about eating a healthy and balanced diet. Food and drink provide the energy and nutrients you need to be healthy. Understanding these nutrition terms may make it easier for you to make better food choices.

Sleep Foundation in the U.S. suggests that diet and nutrition can influence the quality of your sleep, and certain fruits and drinks can make it harder to get the sleep that you need. Lack of key nutrients such as calcium, vitamins A, C, D, E and K would cause sleep problems.

High carbohydrate meals with high glycemic index during night meals (e.g., rice or wheat), alcohol as well as tobacco at night will make a person drowsy, increase awakening and reduce the amount of the required sleep.

Sleep Foundation further suggests that we adopt the mediterranean diet, which is plant-based, lean meats (no pork, beef or chicken), eggs and high fibre foods. Such a diet not only improves the health of a person’s heart but also improves the sleep quality.

Happily, enough, most Indian meals are variants of the mediterranean diet. And we are also advised to eat sparingly sufficient dinners, in order to sleep well. So, let us wish each other a healthy and ‘sound’ sleep.

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