Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Do You Find It Easy to Drift off? in the Latest in His Series on Striking Images, Our Columnist Looks at Some of the Disastrous Consequences of Not Getting Enough Sleep

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Do You Find It Easy to Drift off? in the Latest in His Series on Striking Images, Our Columnist Looks at Some of the Disastrous Consequences of Not Getting Enough Sleep

Article excerpt

Byline: Charles Saatchi

CAN you sleep through anything -- crashing thunderstorms, the TV blaring, the wail of police car sirens past your bedroom? Some people can while others are awakened by the slightest tinkle -- a teaspoon being dropped in the kitchen a floor below.

Worse than being too easily awoken is having the burden that many of us have to cope with -- persistent insomnia. Sufferers sleep fitfully on a good night and toss and turn for seemingly endless hours on a poor one.

Just like breathing, sleeping is a fundamental requirement for survival. This is often overlooked as people push the limits further, trying to squeeze more hours out of the day. But in truth, you would probably survive three times as long without food as you could without sleep.

Sleep deprivation is not only deeply unpleasant, it has profound the naked eye effects on the body. Your brain cells start to shrink and your hormones start to play up, setting off a chain reaction. Melatonin, which inhibits the proliferation of cancer cells, stops being produced. The fatregulating hormone leptin is compromised and your hunger hormone, ghrelin, increases. You are left feeling hungry even if you've already eaten, often leading to weight gain.

Interrupted or impaired sleep also increases your risk of heart disease, and further hormone fluctuations increase stress levels. It contributes to premature ageing by interfering with growth cell production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep or after exercise.

Remarkably, the two great nuclear disasters that have occurred in recent decades have both been linked to a lack of sleep. In the cases of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island engineers had been working for 13 hours or more. At Three-Mile Island the incident was specifically attributed to "human error due to sleep deprivation". …

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