Wednesday, August 02, 2006

More sleep needed?

‘For all the advances of modern society, we cannot afford to ignore the rhythms of the animal brain within us, any more than we can neglect our need to breathe or eat. Without the biological clocks in our brains, our lives would be chaotic, our actions disorganised. The brain has internalised the rhythms of Nature, but can tick on for months without sight of the sun…….
Blakemore 1988

Most animals have a circadian rhythm, a cycle of various physiological and behavioural functions, synchronised to just under a 25 hour cycle. Even the body’s immune system changes during waking and sleeping, with more natural killer cells present during the day yet more T cells active at night. Disruptions of this pattern can explain why infections tend to plague shift-workers. The body’s internal clock is about as reliable and regular as most manufactured clocks and it is thought that the body clock is located in a tiny cluster of neurons called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN).

How much sleep is needed?
According to Maas (1998) the prehistoric genetic blueprint for sleep has not evolved fast enough to keep up with the fast pace of twentieth-century living. Humans are more likely to need an average of ten hours sleep a night rather than the four hours Margaret Thatcher was famously able to get by on. Maas also claims that each of us maintains a personal sleep bank account, and as a rule of thumb for every two waking hours incurs a sleep debt of around one hour. Maas and others argue that modern society is a sleep-deprived society and notes that over the past 20 years an extra month of working hours has been added to the annual working and commuting time. In fact the British work longer hours than any other nation in Europe, and sleep one-and-a-half hours less per night than two generations ago.

Does Sleep Deprivation Affect Health?
In short the answer is ‘yes’. Dement (2000) believes that most of us carry a large ‘sleep debt’ and has linked this to high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. Sleep debt is dangerous and potentially be lethal. For example, the Challenger space shuttle disaster was attributed to human error caused by extreme sleep deprivation.

So, sleep is perhaps more important than realised. This was taken from a book being published entitled 'Why Lawyers Should Surf' written by myself and Mr Tim Kevan