Good Morning! It may be later in the day
for you but for me I'm just coming back after eight hours of
sleep. Why do I sleep? Why have I spend decades – a full third
of my life – dead to the world? I don't know. But that's only
because nobody knows. Scientists and scholars, philosophers and
poets have contemplated the topic but only in the last half
century have there been legitimate strides toward true
The only complaint as common as the
common cold is insomnia, which is defined as an inability to
fall asleep, stay asleep or both. When pollsters asked random
samples of people if they had ever experienced insomnia, 95%
said they had with 10% saying it's a chronic condition. There
are a number of brain disorders that can cause sleeplessness but
more often than not it's a symptom rather than a disease. The
challenge for a doctor is to find the cause and treat it.
One common cause is Obstructive Sleep
Apnea. This occurs when an individual falls asleep and the
various tissues surrounding their airway relax and collapse. The
result is a snore interrupted by a gasp that can be initiated by
extra weight and/or excess alcohol. This can occur a dozen or
more times a night without the individual being aware of it.
The problem is that sleeping is a vital
part of living. Interrupt a person's sleep, especially during
REM or dreaming stage, and the results over time will be
catastrophic. All animals, along with fish and insects, need
some sort of down time as part of their circadian rhythm.
Unfortunately, lots of people don't know they aren't sleeping
well and while many more may know it, they don't take their
sleep debit seriously. The consequences, from dozing off while
driving to suffering from a weakened immune system, can be - and
often are - fatal.
One might think that simply resting
would be enough but that's not the case. All-out sleep is
necessary for essential physical and
mental maintenance. Interrupt sleeping for as little as a night
or two and metabolic problems will become apparent. Interrupt
dreaming and the individual will start to dream while awake,
experiencing psychotic episodes.
Look At It This Way
Just because the need for sleeping and
dreaming are not yet understood should in no way diminish their
importance to one's health. I would suggest learning more about
researcher Dr. W. C, Dement and the work being done at sleep
centers. Clearly the topic is way too involved to cover in a
short column so let me relate two stories that may encourage you
to look into that vital yet mysterious third of your life.
The first involves a man who stabbed his
wife multiple times, drove to his in-laws' house and stabbed
them, then returned home to drown his wife (who was still alive)
in their swimming pool. His defense was sleep walking and while
you may find it hard the believe, juries have found it, and
similar cases, believable.
Now what about all those honest,
seemingly sane individuals who have reported being visited by
space aliens, taken aboard a UFO, examined and then returned to
their beds? Look up hypnagogic/ hypnopompic hallucinations.