All right, already….We are about to become accustomed or even bored by the stream of news and research reports. Yes, lack of sleep could be a causal factor in obesity, depression, suicide, hypertension, diabetes, cancers, immune system defects, addiction relapse, attention deficit problems, dementia, mitochondrial energy lapses, and much besides. My friends and patients are becoming immunized and desensitized to these scenarios. As they lose interest, they lose motivation to change.
But given what sleep really is (see below), how could the reports be otherwise? It’s like saying that stopping breathing or a lack of oxygen will lead to brain problems, liver damage, heart stoppage. Or that lack of gas will cause problems with malfunctioning of your car and you won’t get where you want.
What is sleep? Sleep is not one thing or one state, but rather a collection of processes of detoxification, cell cycles, recuperation, organ system modification, etc. usually triggered by night or dark, but occurring at other times. Sleep states and processes are required by the nature of cells and cell membranes, all of which have cycles we label activity or rest or changing. Think of the rhythms of brain waves, heart beats, insulin release, eye blinks, mitochondrial ATP energetics. Every cell of the body is reverberating. Thought and emotion are related to brain circuits which open and close, connections form and evaporate and reform. All of this activity is modulated and changed by the collective processes we call “Sleep”.
What’s the bottom line? You must change your life. Think Sleep. Awaken feeling rested, if you can. That’s the safest and best we can do at this knowledge distance, until science tells us more.