Saturday, December 09, 2006

Sleep Like a Baby

Does sleep deprivation result in premature Alzheimer’s disease? A few months ago, we thought we were losing our brains. I was driving Hikaru to his grandmother's house, and forgot where I was going. In fact, I forgot where Hikaru was, and went to work instead. He was sleeping in his car seat when I realized that I never dropped him off. Mommy was going to make rice, and she went to scoop out some powdered baby formula for the rice cooker (instead of the rice).

If anyone says that they "sleep like a baby", we're pretty sure they don't have one. Having a baby is a great joy, but the associated sleep deprivation can literally kill the parents. In our years BC (Before Child), part of our happiness was getting the required 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. During our past year AB (After Baby), we've experienced the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture. A lack of sleep can result in emotional mood changes -- irritability, anger, pessimism, paranoia, sadness, and stress. It can also cause lapses in memory, confusion, hallucinations, and psychosis. Sleep deprivation weakens the immune system and reduces white blood cell production. We haven't been sick as many times as in this past year. In laboratory rat experiments, sleep deprivation leads to death. Besides being mentally and physically tired, we didn't realize the seriousness.

One study by a researcher at the University of Chicago Medical School, showed that in otherwise healthy adults, glucose metabolism can fall by up to forty percent in sleep deprived people who were only getting four hours of sleep per night. Also, levels of the stress hormone cortisol were higher as well that affect memory, and tissue repair and growth. In very simple words, one feels tired (of course) and health is adversely affected.

With insufficient sleep, metabolic activity in the brain also drops, and the neurons cease to function normally. Apparently, these changes in neural activity can be inferred from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans. The brain's frontal cortex needs adequate sleep to function. Insufficient sleep affects the frontal cortex's ability to control speech, access memory, and problem solving skills. Scary stuff.

But one doesn't have to be a new parent with a newborn to be sleep deprived, though. It is estimated that one quarter of all adults in the United States are sleep deprived. Maybe one simple solution to improving your life is to get some sleep. Here's a few random website links about sleep deprivation, if you're not too tired to check them out...

Sleep Deprivation

Sleep Deprivation Can Hinder Sports Performance

Physiological correlates of prolonged sleep deprivation in rats

Brain Activity is Visibly Altered Following Sleep Deprivation

The real victims of sleep deprivation

A lot of computer guys we know are sleep deprived...

Are sleep-deprived engineers hurting the Web?

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