"Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast."
William Shakespeare, Macbeth
"And if tonight my soul may find her peace
in sleep, and sink in good oblivion,
and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower
then I have been dipped again in God, and new-created."
The art of sleeping has its place in our lives. Yet, in these hectic times, more often than not, we encroach on our sleep so we can catch up on our homework, socializing, working and many other pastimes. Sometimes even when we wrap ourselves up in our bed to sleep, we scare sleep away because of our wondering mind. We free ourselves from the shackles of our restless mind only when we can train it to obey our will. By taming our mind, we can harness the benefits of a good night's sleep. If we miss this opportunity, we risk getting sick.
It appears that like a factory that has to shut down for maintenance, the brain does better when it goes to sleep. During sleep, the body rests and the production of stress hormones decrease. This gives the body the chance to repair its wear and tear. A recent study on rats by researchers from the Princeton University showed that lack of sleep in rats prevented the growth of cells in rats' brain area called hippocampus that is involved in forming memories. In two groups of rats, the group that had less sleep had higher levels of the stress hormone corticosterone. When the investigators kept the corticosterone levels constant, the decrease in the brain cell growth was less. Even though the experimenters conducted this study in rats, it will be interesting to conduct the same study in humans.
The take home message is that sleep has its purpose in rejuvenating your body. Skimp on your sleep and you run the risk of stressing your body that would lead to increase stress hormones that may have effects on your brain and affect your immune system. The following are some suggestions to help you to sleep like a baby:
- Don't go to bed angry as the stress from your anger will prevent you from sleeping and increase your steroid levels
- Calm your mind before you go to sleep so you can have a stress free sleep.
- One way of calming your mind is to meditate. By simply calming your mind, relaxing your whole body and taking deep breaths slowly in and out of your nose, your mind would be calm and help you to sleep better. Your relaxed stress free body will produce less stress hormones, help you to sleep and maybe spare your brain.
- You may also read an inspirational passage that may calm your mind and give you less stress so you can go to sleep like a baby.
- Some people find that they can sleep better if they exercise before they go bed.
O sleep, O gentle sleep,
Nature's soft nurse, how have I frighted thee,
That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down
And steep my sense in forgetfulness?
William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part I
Reference: BBC On Line.