Khob-kun-kah ~ For the Gift of Sleep

(photo cred: Hidden by Art)

Today I’m grateful for the sleep I’m about to enjoy.  After an early start, a long tutoring session, errands in the city, working on my MA application, a tremendous Bikram sesh, and some mint tea to top it all off . . . I am ready for some precious Zs!

Saying “thankyou” in Thai:

khob-kun ขอบคุณ.
khob-kun-Ka, If you are a woman.
khob-kun-Krub, If you are a man.

(The romanized spelling of the phrase may differ, especially region-to-region)

I chose to say thankyou in Thai today because when I’d ask my Thai students what their hobbies were, they would often reply: “sleeping!”

At first I thought it was adorable, and tried to re-explain what a hobby was.  But no, they were serious, sleep really is an activity they enjoy when not working.  And what a wise hobby it is … I could probably have a whole blog singin’ the praises of sleep and its necessity for health.  But I’ll just re-post a few choice articles here, instead:

From Harvard Health Publications:

Importance of Sleep : Six reasons not to scrimp on sleep

January 2006

A recent survey found that more people are sleeping less than six hours a night, and sleep difficulties visit 75% of us at least a few nights per week. A short-lived bout of insomnia is generally nothing to worry about. The bigger concern is chronic sleep loss, which can contribute to health problems such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and a decrease in the immune system’s power, reports the Harvard Women’s Health Watch.

While more research is needed to explore the links between chronic sleep loss and health, it’s safe to say that sleep is too important to shortchange.

The Harvard Women’s Health Watch suggests six reasons to get enough sleep:

  1. Learning and memory: Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later.
  2. Metabolism and weight: Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.
  3. Safety: Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps, and road accidents.
  4. Mood: Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.
  5. Cardiovascular health: Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.
  6. Disease: Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.

 

From the National Institutes of Health, Medline Plus:

Many people view sleep as merely a “down time,” when their brains shut off and their bodies rest. People may cut back on sleep, thinking it won’t be a problem, because other responsibilities seem much more important. But research shows that a number of vital tasks carried out during sleep help people stay healthy and function at their best.

While you sleep, your brain is hard at work forming the pathways necessary for learning and creating memories and new insights. Without enough sleep, you can’t focus and pay attention or respond quickly. A lack of sleep may even cause mood problems. Growing evidence shows that a chronic lack of sleep can also increase your risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and infections.

Despite growing support for the idea that adequate sleep, like adequate nutrition and physical activity, is vital to our well-being, people are sleeping less. The nonstop “24/7” nature of the world today encourages longer or nighttime work hours and offers continual access to entertainment and other activities. To keep up, people cut back on sleep.

A common myth is that people can learn to get by on little sleep (such as less than six hours a night) with no negative effects. Research suggests, however, that adults need at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night to be well rested. Indeed, in 1910, most people slept nine hours a night. Recent national surveys show that 30 percent of U.S. adults sleep fewer than seven hours a night. As many as 30 percent of adults also report daytime sleepiness so severe that it interferes with work, driving, and social functioning at least a few days each month.

Evidence from other national surveys indicate that 70 percent of adolescents sleep less than the recommended 8 to 9 hours each night. Lack of sleep may have a direct effect on children’s health, behavior, and development.

***

Although these articles may seem contrary to yogic literature which speaks to a decreased necessity of sleep as practitioners reach advanced stages, the above articles refer to general public health.  Advanced yogis (whose lives are dedicated to practice) are exceptions to many general health rules … Like this 99-year old yogi I met in Rishikesh who teaches to hundreds and survives on a cup of wheat and a few oranges a day!

103 years young and counting…!
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