Can a Lack of Sleep Really Drive You Mad?
|June 24, 2009||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Can a Lack of Sleep Really Drive You Mad?
Town sets off practicing 4 keys to longevity
While waiting for geonomics to end our money worries and clean up the environment and improve food quality, there are steps we can take to sleep better and live longer. We trim and blend two 2009 articles from (1) the Independent UK, posted on AlterNet June 19 on insomnia by Daniel Freeman and Jason Freeman (authors of Know Your Mind: Common Emotional and Psychological Problems and How to Overcome Them), and (2) USA Today, June 15 on longevity by Mary Brophy.
by Daniel Freeman & Jason Freeman and by Mary Brophy
- Town sets off practicing 4 keys to longevity
National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner has spent recent years traveling the globe, analyzing cultures where people live long, healthy lives. He has christened these longevity hot spots “Blue Zones,” and has written a book about them, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. They include Sardinia, Italy, and Hojancha, Costa Rica, and Ikaria, Greece where people nap often and enjoy regular festivals — sometimes five in one week.
Buettner and his colleagues now are taking what they’ve learned from these bucolic locations to Albert Lea, Minn to help the residents there “live longer, better,” as the Vitality Project’s tagline espouses.
Albert Lea, a town of 18,000, is typical. Its rates of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes rank with average American towns. About 40% of the town’s residents are overweight and close to 30% have hypertension.
The six-month-long undertaking focuses on:
Community environment. Creating more bike paths, garden plots, a new farmer’s market.
Social groups. Forming walking, biking clubs.
Home and work habitats. Revamping school and business cafeterias, grocery stores, and restaurants.
Building the inner self. Motivational seminars.
With help from the city’s civic leaders, so far 20% of residents have signed on, double Buettner’s aim of 10% participation.
The “walking school bus” has been a hit. Every day, backpack-laden kids, local seniors, and stay-at-home moms and dads head to school together. Until now, if you saw someone walking around here,” resident J. Erickson says, everybody thought they had gotten a DWI and lost their license.
Albert Lea is being encouraged to overhaul its eating routines. Families are keeping more “longevity” foods on hand, including sweet potatoes, beans, nuts, blueberries, and tea — foods consumed regularly in Blue Zones.
Buettner is adamant that people are much more in control of their health than they realize; research suggests only about 20% of our longevity is linked to genetics, while 80% is environmentally influenced.
Buettner is asking townspeople to get involved by becoming team leaders so the new initiatives will stick. When Buettner departs town in October, will the curtain fall on Albert Lea’s longevity efforts, or will there be a resounding encore that carries everyone well into their golden years?
- Can a Lack of Sleep Really Drive You Mad?
How long could you manage without sleep? The current record-holder is Randy Gardner, who as a 17-year-old Californian high-school student back in 1964 managed a staggering 265 hours — or 11 days — without so much as a nap.
By the time he finally broke the record, Gardner had endured crippling exhaustion, forgetfulness, dizziness, slurred speech and blurred vision. He’d been moody and irritable, and unable to concentrate on the simplest tasks. He’d even experienced hallucinations and delusions.
Persistent sleep problems may help cause and exacerbate a number of common mental illnesses.
The clinical definition of insomnia is taking longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep on several nights each week and over at least a month, which causes problems in daytime functioning.
Individuals with insomnia were nearly three times more likely to develop depression over the next 12 months and more than twice as likely to suffer from anxiety.
People with breathing-related sleeping disorders such as sleep apnoea (in which breathing stops for a few seconds) are at greater risk of developing depression — and the worse the sleep problem, the more likely it is that they’ll become depressed.
Sleep problems aren’t simply a symptom of bipolar disorder; they can also trigger the manic episodes.
Those suffering from insomnia were five times more likely to experience strong paranoid thoughts than those who generally slept well.
Children who don’t get enough sleep are prone to the sorts of behavioral problems that can look like the signs of ADHD.
That said, just because you don’t sleep well — and on any given night one in three of us will have difficulties sleeping — it doesn’t mean you’re going to develop anxiety or depression.
If you can sort out your sleeping, you’ll be reducing the risk of developing psychological and emotional problems. If you’re already battling these problems, better sleep can be a crucial — and non-pharmaceutical — weapon in your armory.
There are several ways to combat sleeplessness. Exercise every day — it’ll tire you out. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine in the evening. Develop a relaxing evening routine — take a warm bath or spend some time reading or listen to gentle music or do a relaxation exercise. Have a bedtime snack, something healthy and relatively plain.
Get your bedroom right with a comfortable bed in a room that’s quiet, dark, and your preferred temperature. Resist naps. Associate your bed only with sleep, so don’t use it for reading, eating, watching TV, or writing. Only go to bed when you’re very tired and, if you’re not asleep within 20 minutes, get up and do something relaxing for a while.
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