Sleep Is Golden

I would like to start by giving a definition of sleep to help us put this topic in perspective.

Sleep is a naturally recurring state of mind and body, characterized by altered consciousness, relatively inhibited sensory activity ,inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles, and reduced interactions with surroundings.

So forgetting all the big grammar and medical jargons, sleep is simply when you lie down on a bed, find a good soft pillow and simply snooze off !

Why is sleep golden?

Sleep is vital to your physical and mental health.To help us maintain our sanity and function as normal human beings, we need adequate sleep.These days people now sleep less and there is reduced quality of sleep.In fact the CDC refers to sleep problems as a public health epidemic.

Sleep is very vital for the following reasons:

1) It reduces your risk of serious health problems such as heart disease, heart attack, and Diabetes.

2) It reduces your risk of obesity - In a study done at Harvard school of public health, they found out that adults and children who slept less weighed more than those who had enough sleep.

3) Too little sleep (and too much sleep ) is associated with shorter lifespan - According to data from three large cross-sectional studies it was revealed that sleeping 5 hours or less per night increased mortality risk from all causes by 15%.

4) Adequate sleep helps to prevent mood disorders - You can bear witness as to what happens the next day if you had no sleep all night. You will be very irritable, moody and short-tempered !

5) Improved cognition -You become more mentally alert and less forgetful. The effect of sleep deprivation takes a toll on the brain. 5 or less hours of sleep for three days in a row can damage or kill brain cells.It was discovered by American and French researchers in 2009 that your brain needs "the sharp wave ripples" in order to consolidate memory.These sharp wave ripples occur most frequently during the deepest level of sleep occuring during longer sleep time frames.

What is adequate sleep? Adequate sleep varies from age to age according to The National Sleep Foundation

Newborns (0-3 months): They need at least 14-17 hours of sleep each day.

Infants (4-11 months): They need about 12-15 hours of sleep  each day.

Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours required per day.

Preschoolers (3-5):10-13 hours needed each day.

School age children(6-13 years): 9-11 hours is required for each day

Teenagers(14-17): 8-10 hours is needed each day

Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours is needed per day

Older Adults(65 +): Sleep range is 7-8 hours is needed each day.

Good signs that your sleep is on track:

  • You fall asleep within 15-20 minutes of lying down to sleep.
  • You regularly sleep a total of seven to nine hours in a 24-hour period as an adult.
  • While in your bed, your sleep is continuous—you don’t have long periods of lying awake when you wish to be sleeping.
  • You wake up feeling refreshed, as if you’ve “filled the tank.”
  • You feel alert and are able to be fully productive throughout the waking hours (note, it’s natural for people to feel a dip in alertness during waking hours, but with healthy sleep, alertness returns).
  • Your partner or family members do not notice any disturbing or out of the ordinary behavior from you while you sleep, such as snoring , pauses in breathing, restlessness, or otherwise nighttime behaviors.

Healthy sleep varies from individual to individual. For an adult, as long as you get a total of about 7-9 hours of sleep in a day, then your sleep is adequate. Whether you decide to have 7-9 straight hours at night or have like 7 hours at night and an hour of nap time during the day.

I understand that it is a bit difficult for shift workers (such as nurses, doctors, paramedics, security agents, truck drivers,etc) to have adequate sleep.This is because of the change in their circardian rhythm in which they have to sleep in the day when the sunlight is out there and work at night while others are sleeping. I have had my fair share of this from experience. There were times when I had night shift of about 12 hours, have to go home to sleep  during the day( and for me I couldn't do more than 5 hours at a stretch during the day ) and then you are back on call at night. Imagine doing this for 4 straight nights. At the end of the calls you are so exhausted!
Honestly, it is very hard to sleep during the day and ultimately this leads to chronic sleep deprivation.

Sleep Hygiene Tips

Sleep hygiene is the promotion of good sleep habits and regular sleep.The following tips can be useful in improving sleep;

1) Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up from bed at about the same time each morning.

2) Avoid eating large meals just before bed

3) Practise a relaxing bedtime routine e.g a warm cup of milk, warm bath.

4) Avoid taking power nap during the day.

5) Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet

6) Evaluate your room. Make sure the temperature is right, dim the light, your mattress is comfortable and supporting, pillows are soft enough and if your partner snores get earplugs or 'white noise' machine.

7) Ensure that your bedroom  is only for sleeping and sex(if you have 'the license' to practise). No reading, eating,or watching TV. No electronic gadgets

8) Avoid taking caffiene in the late afternoon or evening.

9) Avoid consuming alcohol before bedtime and avoid nicotine too.

10) Reduce fluid intake before bedtime.

I am sure you all agree with me now that indeed sleep is golden.

If you sleep better you will definitely live better. You are less 'cranky', you will be more patient and tolerant of people, your blood pressure stays stable because you flip less easily. 

So help yourself today and sleep more , sleep better for a better existence.

I will conclude with the words of Thomas Dekker:

"Sleep is the golden chain that ties Health and our bodies together."


Dr Funmi.


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