A Total Snooze Fest?

  Being busy isn't always bad, but it can definitely result in serious sleep deprivation.  This last week I've been averaging about 4 hours a night, in contrast to the recommended 6 - 7 hours per night (that's right, it's not 8 - 9 hours after all).  In the midst of all the fatigue and confusion, I started to wonder about why sleep is such a necessity for living, inspiring the theme behind the post.

  So what happens when someone tries to go without sleep?  Well...

  Sound familiar?  Okay, but what's going on biochemically?  When I say biochemically, what I really mean is what are the chemical interactions taking place to either stimulate or inhibit our sleep?

  Have you ever heard of melatonin?  Melatonin is a hormone the body releases when we see the change in the day from light to dark.  That's right!  It's a hormone that tells our body it's ready for bed time when the day ends.  Perhaps you've experienced an excessive amount of fatigue during the shorter, winter days?  Well, that's why!  What about those weird moments where you end up waking up at the crack of dawn while out camping? 

Inhibition of melatonin by light [ Nature ]

Inhibition of melatonin by light [Nature]

 Do you ever feel sleepy after eating a banana?  What about eating a lot of meat or dairy products?  Potassium in the banana not only helps with cramps, but sleep too!  The same goes for meat and dairy products in meat and dairy products being high in L-tryptophan (not just turkey).  Read more about food and chemistry here.

  Now that we've looked into some of the science behind sleep, let's investigate some reasons as to why sleep is such a necessary component of living.  As referenced in the Youtube clip, sleep restores your body, keeping you fresh mentally and physically.  Seen with the example of melatonin, many hormones and chemicals are signaled by either falling asleep or waking up.

 One of these being Growth Hormone, which is crucial to our growth and development, especially during adolescence.  Studies have actually proven that reduced sleep is directly correlated with a shorter life span - so you're not really being efficient with your time after all, folks!  The video also mentioned that a lack of sleep leads to a weaker immunity, which goes back to the idea that you will likely have a shorter life span with less sleep than with more.

  Now, odds are that if you're a graduate student, like myself, you're reading this and thinking, "Yeah right, in a perfect world I'd get decent sleep."  Well, next time you find yourself in a sleepy slump, remember this so that you don't end up like this:

Courtesy of Blue Sky Bookshelf

Courtesy of Blue Sky Bookshelf

Questions?  Comments?  Confusions?