Blessings on him that first invented sleep! — Miguel de Cervantes.
There's an alarming lack of awareness about sleep in the medical community. Many physicians, quite simply, miss, or ignore, a veritable flood of sleep disorders.
Would you believe it — that want of knowledge about sleep begets far more tribulations than just medical problems? But, less dramatic than medical chutzpah are people around us who are fatigued and exhausted every day, because they don't understand how to manage their sleep. What’s more, they are deceived by their smattering of the mechanics of sleep-debt and the subtle bio-clock that ticks inside us.
Sleep medicine is still in its formative years, albeit the science of sleep is as old as civilisation itself. But, the more we garner a host of minutiae as to what exactly the design of sleep is all about, the more apparent it becomes how fundamentally the electrical, and technological, advances of modern life have swerved us away from our bodies' natural rhythms.
The analogy is simple. Contemporary living is a "clutter" of bright lights, and television entertainment — or, is it ennui? – not to speak of parabolic, or quirky, shifts at the 24/7 workplace. The resultant effect is obvious: we are literally giving a wallop to the inner clock that runs and maintains the synchronicity of our mind and body. In the process, we have managed to topple our marvellously-evolved biological clocks, including the composite biorhythms they monitor. Yes, our technological blitz has surely robbed us of natural order. We have reset the bio-clock, and its control on our behaviour.
For hundreds of years, the practice of medicine ended when the patient slept soundly. More so, because, medicine also occupied itself fully to diseases and disorders that could be noticed and diagnosed in waking patients. If physicians thought about sleep at all, their beliefs needed to mirror a bias that, “Sleep was always good, soothing, and also enormously remedial.” Sleep, as most physicians also suggested, was a general approximate, or a frontier, they could not navigate. Their raison d'être: nothing awful could happen when the patient was soundly cuddled up in bed.
Things, of course, changed when perceivable comprehension of narcolepsy — a disorder marked by excessive daytime sleepiness — had expanded in the early 1970s. But, what engineered a new transformation was the recognition of another sleep malady — apnoea — in which our breathing mechanism is muddled to a great extent, while “penny-pinching” those of us deprived of night-time sleep. This was the turning point. It "zeroed-in" an original wave of sleep research: what drives us to sleep and wakefulness, and why we feel conscious, animated, and watchful, or dozy, lethargic, or sleepy? Result: sleep-arrear/s, or the "conditional" mind, became the central theme.
According to sleep medicine pioneer, William Dement, MD, we have got to blame ourselves for having placed sleep mechanics in a Kafkaesque paradox. He's right. More importantly, not giving healthful sleep its due has cost us dearly: heart disease, traffic-fatigue-related accidents, and a host of calculable or psychological disadvantages, including disturbances of the immune system, and its functioning.
Interestingly, groundbreaking research in the field of sleep medicine has today corroborated one of nature's wisest connotations. That wholesome sleep holds a “hands-on” prescription for longevity — a signpost that is, perforce, much more influential than diet, exercise, or even heredity.
For our sleep-sick, sleep-deficit society, this is a wake-up call for vibrant, good health — a realisation that also explores a vital connexion between happiness, well-being, and a “quality” snooze.