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Treatment and Care for Sleep Disorders
Why Do We Need to Sleep?

Why do we sleep? This is a question that has baffled scientists for centuries and the answer is, no one can be sure. Some believe that sleep gives the body a chance to recuperate from the day's activities but in reality, the amount of energy saved by sleeping for even eight hours is minuscule - about 50 k Cal, the same amount of energy in a piece of toast.

We need to sleep because it is essential to maintaining normal levels of cognitive skills such as speech, memory, innovative and flexible thinking. In other words, sleep plays a significant role in brain development.

What can happen if we didn't sleep?

A good way to understand the role of sleep is to look at what would happen if we didn't sleep. Lack of sleep has serious effects on our body's ability to function. If you've ever pulled an all-nighter, you'll be familiar with the following after-effects: grumpiness, grogginess, irritability and forgetfulness. After just one night without sleep, concentration becomes more difficult and attention span shortens considerably.

With continued lack of sufficient sleep, the part of the brain that controls language, memory, planning and sense of time is severely affected, practically shutting down. In fact, 17 hours of sustained wakefulness can lead to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.05% (two glasses of wine).

Research also shows that sleep-deprived individuals often have difficulty in responding to rapidly changing situations and making rational judgments. In real life situations, the consequences are grave and lack of sleep is said to have been be a contributory factor to a number of international disasters such as Exxon Valdez, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and the Challenger shuttle explosion.

Sleep deprivation not only has a major impact on cognitive functioning but also on emotional and physical health. Sleep apnea which result in excessive daytime sleepiness have been linked to stress and high blood pressure. Research has also suggested that sleep loss may increase the risk of obesity because chemicals and hormones that play a key role in controlling appetite and weight gain are released during sleep.

Shahriar Shahzeidi, M.D. FAAP, FCCP, FAASM
Medical Director
Pediatrician-in-Chief
Fellow of the College of Chest Physicians
Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics
Fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine
AASP
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GHI In the News
Washington Post / Shahzeidi, GHI
Miami Herald Article

Related Links
• National Sleep Foundation - Website
• American Academy of Sleep Medicine - Website
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