CHAPTER 10: SLEEP, THETA BRAIN WAVES, AND MEDITATION

    In this chapter, we will deal with the issue of sleep that claims nearly one third of our lives. Sleep mirrors the profile of an individual’s life, the way one is able to cope with the world, one’s emotions and ambitions. It reflects how intelligently we are able to shape the destiny of the one and only life we have. This chapter deals with one more delicate issue namely, the theta wave activity of the brain, which is closely related to sleep, stress, and meditation.

    Sleep deficiency has become a serious and pervasive malady of modern times. There are numerous reasons for that, which are connected with our life style. The abundance of entertainment avenues is one of the causes. Television, movies, computer games, and similar entertainments claim perhaps the major chunk of our time. The technologies and electronic industry ceaselessly churn out innumerable new gadgets to keep people busy with entertainment. That accounts for not only sleep deficiency but also the problems of overweight and obesity that are equally serious and lead to cardiovascular ailments, diabetes, and other illnesses.

    The unbridled consumerism itself has become an endless game keeping us on the run. In fact, the way we keep constantly searching for entertainments indicates that the foraging instinct of our itchy ancestors in the wild is still driving us around. Our habit of foraging for entertainment is linked to our highly competitive way of life. In order to free ourselves from the hassle, commotion, and stress of the hectic world, we yearn for relaxation and entertainments, which unfortunately come with a price tag. Insomnia and sleep deficiency are the price we pay for modern luxuries and sedate life.

SLEEP DEFICIENCY AND MORTALITY HAZARD

A great deal of scientific research has been carried out on the consequences of sleep deficiency and its links with aging and health disorders. It was discovered that limiting sleep to four hours a day over a few weeks had a detrimental effect on the immune system. Somehow, sleep deficiency has not attracted as much attention as other modern diseases, despite the fact that it is a potent factor behind many ailments. It might be primarily because of the fact that negative effects of sleep deficiency are slow, long-term, and not easily detected.

How many hours do we need to sleep? Though this is a debatable issue, it has been established through extensive studies that sleep of seven hours a day is essential for adults to maintain a good health. Babies and growing children need more sleep. Among adults, more than one hour beyond or below that sleep limit on a regular habit was found to have negative effect on health, including life span. It is surprising to learn that daily sleep of more than eight hours is detrimental to health and reduces life span. Besides, it contributes to the problems of anxieties, restlessness, and other mental disorders.

Some medical experts from the University of California , San Diego School of Medicine, and the American Cancer Society collaborated on a study on sleep duration and insomnia , which appeared in the Archives of General Psychiatry, a journal of the American Medical Association (February 15, 2002). The study involved more than 1.1 million men and women in the age group from 30 to 102 years. The highest survival was found among those who slept seven hours a night. Participants who reported sleeping eight hours or more as a normal habit faced significantly increased mortality hazard, as did those who slept six hours or less. The increased risk exceeded 15 percent for those reporting more than 8.5 hours sleep or less than 3.5 or 4.5 hours.

The study found that sleeping pills significantly increased mortality hazard, while the occasional bouts of insomnia did not increase the mortality rate among the participants. The authors of the study mentioned that insomnia was not synonymous with short sleep. Patients commonly complained of insomnia even though their sleep duration was well within the normal range. In their opinion, often the complaints of insomnia were actually related to depression rather than diagnosis of insomnia.

EVOLUTIONARY PAYOFF

    Evolutionists have often wondered why we need to sleep at all. Practically all forms of life need some sleep or hibernation to sustain health and well-being. However, sleep does not make much sense in the evolutionary terms. It amounts to a considerable loss of lifetime, which could have been otherwise available for useful activities. The more worrying reason is that sleep exposes an animal to danger. That is indeed a big stake linked to the very survival of a species. Despite that, nature has retained the need for sleep because it is very essential for sustaining and recuperating the bioprocesses of life. The loss of a few members of a species owing to predatory attacks was definitely a better bargain against the alternative of jeopardizing health of the entire species across the board, let alone the long-term impact on its future evolution…Read more in the book….

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