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     Volume 5 Issue 84 | March 3, 2006 |

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Straight Talk

Forty Winks

Nadia Kabir Barb

SLEEP: the word seems to be an elusive memory that tantalises and taunts me every day. I think once you become a parent you really do give up your right to have a peaceful night's sleep for the foreseeable future. I was remembering my childhood when my father used to insist on me taking a nap after lunch and the inevitable battle that used to ensue to get out of having to lie down and waste my valuable time where I could be doing a million other things. Right now the thought of having a siesta after lunch or at any time for that matter seems like a luxury I would give my right arm for.

One of the most dreaded sounds I can think of is the beeping or buzzing of the alarm clock first thing in the morning! Even an extra five minutes is not something to turn up ones nose at. I mean how many times have you hit the snooze button and rolled over and fallen asleep for those precious few minutes. We always hear that at least eight hours of sleep is recommended by doctors or sleep experts. But how many people actually sleep for eight hours a night at a stretch? Babies under the age of two require thirteen to seventeen hours of sleep a day which is obviously more sleep than adults need and it is probably the only time in our lives that we get the requisite amount of sleep. But as we grow older from adolescence to adulthood the actual time we spend sleeping becomes more and more reduced. I think this is partly due to the fast pace of life that we tend to lead these days. People are likely to work longer hours and therefore stay up later, and with the ever growing number of television channels we give up sleep time to watch our favourite shows, or earlier times for schools does not allow for the necessary eight hours!

What sleep deprivation does do, is lead to a society where people spend an awfully large part of their life in a perpetual state of being tired. Apart from the fact that this is just not an ideal state of being, it can also lead to other related problems such as increased fatigue, depression, difficulty with social relationships, decreased productivity, breathing disorders, heart disease, etc. I know from my personal experience that the first symptom to show itself when I feel particularly tired is irritability and the fact that the simplest of tasks requires a disproportionate amount of effort. In fact I think I start to resemble a grizzly bear on those days when sleep has eluded me! I was joking with my husband that as a teenager or even in my twenties staying up late was not such a big deal and chatting with my cousins into the wee hours of the night or finishing a book in one sitting was something I looked forward to, but these days if I were given a choice I would choose the comfort and company of my bed any day!

One thing in Bangladesh that I do have an objection to is that children do not seem to have a given bed time. They stay awake till too late and even on school nights attend parties with their parents. This is one thing that I feel quite strongly about as children need their quota of sleep and without it they do not function at their full capacity in school and it is also harmful to their health. My son came to me with a request the other day to be allowed to move his bed time 15 minutes later as most of his friends in his class had a later bedtime than him! This did not seem like too much of a departure from my strict regime so he was granted his wish! Having a specified bedtime, allows the children to follow a pattern and gives them the necessary hours of sleep they require.

There are many people who do not just suffer from sleep deprivation but from actual sleep disorders. Not falling into the category of an insomniac, I find that it is better to steer clear of any medication to aid me in my quest for a decent night's sleep. What I have found is that following a few very basic rules does help to get a slightly more peaceful night's rest. For example, not eating a heavy meal just before going to bed helps tremendously. It is also not wise to drink any caffeinated beverages prior to going to bed. Therefore a hot cup of tea or coffee is likely to keep you up rather than help you get a good night's sleep! However having a hot shower or bath can be very relaxing and actually lend a hand in getting us those zzzz's we hanker after. Watching television right before going to bed is not recommended as you don't want to stimulate your brain last thing at night. On the contrary it should be a time for winding down and giving yourself a bit of quiet time.

Sometimes we think that we can manage perfectly fine without adequate sleep but after a while our body starts to send signals telling us that we are not getting the required amount of rest that we need every night to re charge our internal batteries. With the hectic lifestyle that we lead these days it is all the more reason to look after our health simply by trying to get a good night's sleep!

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