The Long and Short of Sleeping ______________________________________________________________
According to researchers Frederick Backeland and Ernest Hartmann, the average person sleeps approximately seven and a half hours per day. Approximately five percent of the population sleeps less than six hours a day and another five percent sleeps more than nine hours a day if given the chance. Backeland and Hartmann have identified these individuals as short sleepers and long sleepers respectively. From a physical standpoint, the researchers found that short sleepers sleep an average of 330 minutes per night while long sleepers get about 527 minutes of sleep per night. Both groups averaged approximately 75 minutes of deep sleep per night, but long sleepers averaged almost twice as much REM sleep as did short sleepers. CRITICAL POINT: Short sleepers can be found in all age groups among both men and women. It is very rare for a young child to be a short sleeper. The pattern of short sleep appears to run in families. The genetic cause for this is still unknown. Your personality may raise your chance of being a short sleeper. People who tend to be overly active and full of energy are more likely to be short sleepers. This is also true of people who do not seem to worry about much. The reason long sleepers need more REM sleep than do short sleepers is unknown. Backeland and Hartmann believe that personality differences that were discovered between the two groups may be responsible for the different sleep patterns. For instance, they found that short sleepers were generally more ambitious, active, energetic and cheerful. They were also conformists in their thinking and were very sure about their career plans. On the other hand, long sleepers were found to be shy, anxious, introverted, inhibited, passive, mildly depressed and unsure of themselves. CRITICAL POINT: About 2% of men and 1.5% of women report sleeping at least 10 hours per night. Your personality may raise your chance of being a long sleeper. People who tend to be shy and introverted are more likely to be long sleepers. This is also true of people who often worry or seem depressed. Interestingly, most of the athletes that I came in contact with had sleeping habits that approximated long sleepers, but their personalities, in my opinion, seemed to be more characteristics of short sleepers. That made me wonder if the sleeping habits of athletes were different from that of the normal population, so I decided to find out. Along with two friends, Bob Adams and Keith Barr, we devised an
experimental design to determine the sleeping patterns of athletes. The study won us an award from the Academy of Sports and Science. I told you, I am not shy about self promotion. Anyhow, we selected 240 athletes from a group of 743 volunteers. Only athletes who had been competing for two years or more and training regularly for at least 10 hours a week were considered for the study. Also, the athletes were selected from only six sports…powerlifting, Olympic lifting, bodybuilding, basketball, soccer and long distance running…with 40 athletes representing each sport. After the athletes were selected, they were instructed to follow a strict sleeping regimen. For instance, they were required to go to bed every night at the same time. They were also instructed to record their sack time as soon as they woke up in the morning. Once they had awakened, they were not allowed to try and go back to sleep nor were they allowed to take “cat naps” during the day. In other words, the only sleep time they were allowed was when they went to sleep at night. Using this procedure, the athletes recorded their daily sleep for a period of six weeks. Only the information obtained during the last four weeks was used for the experiment. The first two weeks of the investigation were used to help the athletes get accustomed to their new sleeping regimen. The results of the experiment were extremely interesting. As a group, the athletes slept an average of 501 minutes per night. That’s approximately an hour more than what Backeland and Hartmann found for the average person. In addition, approximately 54 percent of the athletes in the study slept more than nine hours a day and only two percent of the subjects slept less than six hours a day. Both percentages are significantly different from what was found when the average population was tested. From the experiment, it seemed quite obvious that the sleeping patterns of athletes were considerably different from the sleeping patterns of the general population. CRITICAL POINT: Short sleeping can be confused with insomnia. Both conditions can cause a person to get a small amount of sleep at night. A person with insomnia has a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep. The overall quality of his sleep may be very poor. This can cause him to be sleepy during the day. The short sleeper does not have any of these problems.
∞ DRUGS in Perspective ∞ __________________________________________________________________
How much do we sleep? By the age of 80 years, a person will have had over 233 600 hours of sleep, which equals to 26.67 years. A person dreams about 4-5 times a night. An average 80 year old person will have had 131 400 dreams in his lifetime. How many dreams can you remember?
In general, athletes seemed to need significantly more sleep. Of further interest was the fact that when the athletes were administered psychological tests, their personality profiles were more characteristic of short sleepers than long sleepers. In general, the athletes appeared to be confident, ambitious, energetic, happy, active and extroverted.
They also experienced very little depression, anxiety, tension, fear and fatigue. Obviously, athletes, at least from the sleeping standpoint, are quite different from the general population. The difference between the two groups might be explained by the physical and personality differences that are found between the two groups. It might just be that athletes experience more physical and mental stress than normal people and consequently, require more sleep. After our initial sleep study, we conducted a second more encompassing experiment. From the subjects that were used in the initial study, five individuals were randomly selected from each of the sports groups. Thus, a total of 30 subjects were selected for the second study. These subjectsâ€™ sleeping patterns were studied under laboratory conditions using an electroencephalograph machine (EEG). Every night for a period of seven days, the subjects were brought to the laboratory, attached to the EEG machine and allowed to sleep. Only the data collected during the last four days of the experiment were analyzed. The first three nights that the subjects spent in the laboratory were used to help them adapt to sleeping in the laboratory setting. CRITICAL POINT: A short sleeper or long sleep does not need any treatment. His sleep is very normal. If a medical condition or another sleep disorder causes the individuals sleeping pattern, then those conditions will need to be treated. Once again, the results were extremely interesting. Although the athletes averaged just slightly more deep sleep per night than what Backeland and Hartmann found for average people, they averaged almost one fifth more REM sleep per night than the general population. Since REM sleep and dreaming are strongly connected, it seems that athletes need more dream time than non-athletes. Why this is the case is only mere speculation at this time. Since everyone dreams nightly, it can be assumed that dreaming serves some necessary function. It has been hypothesized that individuals who are under a lot of stress or who are exposed to new and challenging situations tend to need more dream time. Perhaps athletes experience more stress than average individuals. Of course, this is only speculation, but physical training is a source of stress. Although no one knows what the function of sleep really is, it is believed that if an individual is deprived of REM sleep, the individual will experience ill effects. In reality, William C. Dement, a Stanford University scientist, proved that very point in a fascinating study that he conducted in 1980. Dement had his subjects sleep in his laboratory every night for a period of ten days. While the subjects slept, Dement monitored their sleep cycles with an EEG machine. When the subjects were in a light or deep
sleep, Dement did not disturb them. However, as soon as the subjects entered into the REM period, he would wake them up. After he woke them up, he would tell them to go back to sleep. In almost all cases, as the subjects went back to sleep, their sleep cycle started over again. They would go through light sleep, deep sleep and then to REM sleep at which time Dement would wake them up again. He continued this process throughout the night. As a result, his subjects received all the light and deep sleep that they wanted, but they were deprived of REM sleep and consequently, dreaming. CRITICAL POINT: Dramatic weight changes, especially weight gain, are also common effects of sleep deprivation. Because the amount and quality of the sleep we get affects our hormone levels, namely our levels of leptin and ghrelin, many physiological processes that depend on these hormone levels to function properly, including appetite, are affected by our sleep. Leptin is a hormone that affects our feelings of fullness and satisfaction after a meal, and ghrelin is the hormone that stimulates our appetites. When you suffer from sleep deprivation, your body’s levels of leptin fall and ghrelin levels increase. This means that you end up feeling hungrier without really feeling satisfied by what you eat, causing you to eat more and, consequently, gain weight. After depriving the subjects of REM sleep and/or dreaming for several nights, they became cranky, annoyed, impulsive and hostile at times. Dement also reported that the subjects experienced extreme difficulty in learning new tasks, and significant decrements in performance of already learned tasks. Interestingly, most of the subjects, after a few days of REM deprivation, exhibited shortened sleep cycles. It was as if the subject’s body was trying to rush through its light and deep sleep to get to the REM period of sleep. Dement speculated that the body was attempting to catch up on the REM sleep and/or dreaming that it had lost. Also of interest was the fact that many of the subjects reported experiencing anxiety and nightmares for several nights after the REM deprivation was discontinued. Apparently, the loss of REM sleep triggered the nightmares. This finding was confirmed with subsequent research. Anxiety nightmares occur most often when the need for REM sleep or dreaming is greatest. It might be noted that various illnesses, particularly those that are associated with a high fever, can reduce the amount of REM sleep that an individual experiences. Perhaps even more significant is the fact that sleeping pills reduce REM sleep time. That’s right! Those little pills (barbiturates included) that are supposed to induce sleep, actually destroy the most important part of sleep. The pills will knock you out all right, but the sleep and/or unconsciousness they produce is not normal sleep. Drug researchers have consistently found that individuals
who use barbiturates and sleeping pills over an extended period of time (two weeks or more) develop neurotic behaviors like those of the subjects in Dementâ€™s experiment. Also, like the subjects in Dementâ€™s experiment, once they discontinued the use of sleeping aids, their REM sleep time increased as did the occurrence of nightmares, restlessness and nighttime awakenings. CRITICAL POINT: Without adequate rest, the brain's ability to function quickly deteriorates. The brain works harder to counteract sleep deprivation effects, but operates less effectively: concentration levels drop, and memory becomes impaired. Similarly, the brain's ability to problem solve is greatly impaired. Decision-making abilities are compromised, and the brain falls into rigid thought patterns that make it difficult to generate new problem-solving ideas. Furthermore, research has shown that it can take a month or more to repay the REM sleep debt that accumulates in a weekâ€™s time. There is also research, though not conclusive, that alcohol, like sleeping pills and barbiturates, can reduce REM sleep. Unfortunately, the use of sleeping pills, barbiturates and alcohol to deal with sleep difficulties is a very common practice. It seems that most people are unaware of the ill effects of using these drugs as sleeping agents. The effects of these sleeping agents are variable, unpredictable and result in a strange combination of excitation and depression of the central nervous system. Even in small doses, sleeping pills and barbiturates can produce side effects such as dizziness, blurred vision, headaches, ringing in the ears and relaxation of muscle tissue. Strangely enough, some people are affected in a reverse way. They experience nervousness, tremors, restlessness and irritation of muscle tissue. CRITICAL POINT: Sleep deprivation can have serious effects on your health in the form of physical and mental impairments. Inadequate rest impairs our ability to think, handle stress, maintain a healthy immune system and moderate our emotions. In fact, sleep is so important to our overall health that total sleep deprivation has been proven to be fatal. Manufacturers also have noted that barbiturates and some sleeping pills can cause a type of physiological hangover with symptoms of lethargy and weakness. Thus, an individual who takes sleeping pills, barbiturates or alcohol may find himself tired and weak even after sleeping for eight hours. Then too, it appears that drug induced sleep is not as restful as natural sleep. It is simply better to avoid developing a dependency on any drug. Natural is better.