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Sleep, if you know what’s healthy for you

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There’s something in the physiology of sleep that sounds like the economy of sleep. It’s called a sleep debt. Last night’s inadequate sleep makes you bleary-eyed, bad-tempered and possibly stupid today – everybody knows that. But it does more, immunologist Hiroyuki Kobayashi tells President magazine (July 30).  It has a cumulative effect called a “debt,” whose creditor is the immune system. And the immune system, important always, is all the more so during a pandemic. Treasure your immune system, say Kobayashi and President. Give it sleep. It’ll reward  if you do you with stalwart service – and let you down grievously if you don’t.

The insomniac flares up: “Give it sleep! Don’t you think I would, if I could? Give it sleep how?”

True, Kobayashi acknowledges, the stresses most of us live under, the obligations we must fulfill, the deadlines and quotas we must meet, the clients and bosses we must please, take their toll. The fatigue of a day’s work should put us to sleep, and would – if the stresses and anxieties of a day’s living didn’t come back to haunt us at night. Well, that’s life. Still, stress can be sung to sleep, Kobayashi assures us. That’s good news.

First, a little science. Bodily organs are regulated independently of consciousness by the autonomic nervous system. We don’t think about it, it doesn’t need our conscious input, it functions whether we’re awake or asleep. Its two main components are called sympathetic and parasympathetic. The former speeds us up for action, the latter slows us down for rest.

Stress upsets the balance. The sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive; the parasympathetic retreats in alarm.

Now – consider the brain and the intestines, says Kobayashi. The lay population rarely thinks of them in tandem. To Kobayashi they are “twins.” Next to the brain, there are more nerve cells in the intestines than anywhere else in the body. Moreover – and this is key to the present discussion – 70 percent of the body’s immune cells lodge in the intestines.

The intestines are acutely sensitive and vulnerable to stress, Kobayashi explains. Stress them beyond endurance and its not only digestion you’re impairing; it’s the immune system as well.

Our hypothetical insomniac replies: It’s not me that’s causing stress, it’s society; I’m the victim, not the perpetrator! Fine, says Kobayashi, conceding the point. Let’s see, he says in effect, how we can send you off to sleep in spite of society’s stresses and strains.

Devote an hour before bedtime to preparing for sleep, he suggests. First – take pen in hand. Write a “three-line diary.” Line 1: “What was my biggest failure today?” Written down, objectified, maybe it won’t seem so serious or embarrassing. Line 2: “What was the encounter or event or thought that moved me most today?” Line 3: “What goals shall I set for myself tomorrow?” While working on this, watch your breathing. Keep it regular and even. Your thoughts will pick up the rhythm. A warm towel around the neck also helps – as does, of course, sensible eating and moderate exercise through out the day.

Is it really that simple? the insomniac might wonder. If so, how come there’s still insomnia in the world? Maybe the answer is that simple things are the first to be overlooked. Or maybe it’s something else. Either way, the fact remains: a pandemic is no time for sleep deprivation. If only the heightened anxieties of the pandemic didn’t conspire to keep us awake nights.

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

8 Comments
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I was always sleep-deprived during my teens through to my forties due to being a night person with loads of energy who never felt tired until it was time to go to bed at three a.m. or so. I do believe that caught up with me and was one of the underlying factors in me getting a life-threatening disease. Nowadays, I still don't sleep enough but I get much more than before and I don't take it for granted. I try to slip in forty winks during the daytime whenever I can. Definitely helps with weight management too. I also focus on the intestinal microbiome by consuming lots of different types of yogurt, kefir, etc. Glad I lived long enough to find out and get a good understanding.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Devote an hour before bedtime to preparing for sleep, he suggests. First – take pen in hand. Write a “three-line diary.” Line 1: “What was my biggest failure today?” Written down, objectified, maybe it won’t seem so serious or embarrassing. Line 2: “What was the encounter or event or thought that moved me most today?” Line 3: “What goals shall I set for myself tomorrow?” While working on this, watch your breathing. Keep it regular and even. Your thoughts will pick up the rhythm. A warm towel around the neck also helps – as does, of course, sensible eating and moderate exercise through out the day.

We need some realistic advice. Most sleep-deprived persons are not going to find an extra hour for this suggestion. The number one way I get knocked out is intense exercise during the day and then I tend to fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer. The best way for me to get insomnia is from job, relationship and money stress, so if possible try to pursue a life that minimizes stress. Easier said than done.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Old news. Whether you're a shift-worker and have noisy neighbours or you work regular and have noisy neighbours, it all boils down to one thing: Lack of respect. Taken Japanese building regulations no wonder people snap.

How to gain proper sleep with all that noise around you?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Last night’s inadequate sleep makes you bleary-eyed, bad-tempered and possibly stupid today 

explains a lot about Japanese people, especially salary men. If there was ever a nation of people that needed more sleep it is this one. One of the best ways to allow people to do that is to allow people to WFH. Another is to pass laws that prohibit or limit overwork and ENFORCE them.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

eat well,drink well,sleep well,dont care abt unecessary scrap/incl "news"/and stay as strong as horse.

this is best what you can do and no science is needed.

:)

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It seems that some people on the train can fall into a deep sleep while standing up, holding onto an overhead strap. This is an advanced technique, though, as is waking just before one’s stop.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It seems that some people on the train can fall into a deep sleep while standing up, holding onto an overhead strap. This is an advanced technique, though, as is waking just before one’s stop.

My wife is very good at doing that. I'm always amazed people sleeping on trains wake up just before their station.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It seems that some people on the train can fall into a deep sleep while standing up, holding onto an overhead strap.

They're not sleeping - they're simply in zombie mode, and will pay for it later in the day

Perhaps lack of sleep is one reason for the low marriage rate in Japan. Seriously.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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