Slumber Settlements

We now recognise that sleep is a vital altered state of consciousness and plays a central role in our physical and psychological development.

By Dr Samineh I. Shaheem (Out of Mind)

Published: Sun 21 Jun 2015, 1:35 AM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:10 PM

Does the title refer to a new sci-fi thriller? No actually, it’s something we do everyday yet most of us are unaware of its power and impact. The act of sleep. Previously it was thought that this period was a dormant stage of our existence, that not much goes on and just a block of time that we’re not awake.

We now recognise that sleep is a vital altered state of consciousness and plays a central role in our physical and psychological development. Simply put, if people don’t get enough sleep they can suffer from a wide range of health related issues. Many sleep studies have indicated that sleep has distinctive stages and cycles throughout the night. Our brain controls these various functions and certain stages of sleep are needed for us to feel well rested, balanced, energetic and lucid while other stages are linked to memory, our nervous system, speech and motor skill functions.

In one study, Dr Dement kept his participant Randy Gardner, awake for 266 hours. The results here as well as numerous other studies indicate that main symptoms associated with sleep deprivation include mood swings, irritability, shortness of temper, sadness, hopelessness, stress, inability to concentrate, changes in appetite, and agitation. Some of the more serious outcomes include problems with comprehension, paranoia, visual/auditory hallucinations and short-term memory loss.

While most of us try and have the prescribed 7-9 hours of sleep per night, there are those who can’t due to one of almost 80 different types of sleep disorders that have been identified. Sleep disorders are reported across cultures and they affect the person all day, not just at night, eliciting a feeling of disconnection from the world.

If you think you may have a sleep disorder, ask yourself the following questions:  Is it hard for you to fall or stay asleep? Do you wake up repeatedly throughout the night, sometimes finding it hard to breath? Do you wake up feeling tired or very sleepy the next day, even if you have had enough sleep? Do feel anxious about going to bed?

Although it’s tough to live with a sleep disorder and sometimes seems like you may never have another night of blissful zzzz’s, the battle against this issue can be won. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, even the more severe sleep disorders are now diagnosed and treated thanks to new research that’s constantly allowing us to form a deeper understanding about diagnosis and treatment.

You need to talk to your doctor if you’ve had trouble sleeping for more than a month since it may not go away naturally. Sleep specialist will be able to identify the root cause and what kind of sleep disorder you may be suffering from. However, if it’s been less than a month, before going to see a specialist, you can keep a daily sleep diary for a period of two weeks, which will help the doctor explore your sleep patterns, providing valuable insight about what’s stifling your snooze.

Sometimes we’re our own worst enemy, choosing to engage in behaviours that affect us negatively, like needlessly staying awake or not having a structured sleep schedule. Some medical authorities are referring to this negligence as a ‘public health epidemic.’ So why should this be a priority? Here are just a few ways sleep can positively influence different aspects of your life.

>      More alert and productive

>      Creative and better at problem solving or decision making

>      Likely to eat healthier and have the energy to exercise

>      Comfort zones won’t hold you captive

>      Better skin

>      Happiness is experienced more

>      Reactions and responses are sharper

>      Stronger immune system

>      Better communication and less misunderstandings

>      Recognising others and appreciating them rather than being primarily self-focused

Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, is one of the most active and successful women who has worked very hard to raise awareness about the benefits of sleep — she refers to it as the ‘biggest enhancement tool’ of our life. Arianna emphasises the importance of ‘unplugging’ ourselves from all technological devices. ‘For me, the key is to take all my devices out of the bedroom and charge them in another room, because otherwise, you’re going to be tempted if you wake up for whatever reason to check your texts and to check your emails, and then it’s much harder to go back to sleep.’ Explains Huffington.

There’s no doubt that we’re incredibly busy and have many demands on our time — family, jobs, kids, friends etc. But that doesn’t mean we should sacrifice sleep so that we can get to everything else. We’re forever trying to transform/improve our lives through external and sometimes unrealistic strategies when the solution may appear just as soon as you disappear into the land of slumber.

 Dr. Samineh I. Shaheem is a Learning & Development Specialist and the owner of Life Clubs UAE. She has studied and worked in different parts of the world, including the USA, Canada, UK, Netherlands, and now the UAE. She co-hosts a radio program on 103.8 FM Dubai Eye (Voices of Diversity 10-12pm) every Sunday morning discussing the most relevant psychological/cultural issues in our community. Twitter: @saminehshaheem/Facebook: Life Clubs UAE.

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