My early years were punctuated by a serious inquisitive nature that often led me into trouble. My small nose would find itself poking into other people’s business, something any sane human being would be irate by.
More often than not, my small frame paid the price for the snooping nature as I found myself on the receiving end of some vicious physical blows from people I would have pried on.
Some saw it as a serious social ill but others interpreted it as acts born out of someone who simply cared a lot. I think the latter elucidation was closer to the truth.
I remember waking up in the middle of the night, and tip toeing to my mother’s room to see if she was alright.
In many of such visits I was usually shocked out of my skin to see her wide awake, probably looking at the ceiling seemingly entangled in deep thought.
Enquiries about what was going wrong where immediately dismissed with the words: “I am alright son, now go back to bed.”
It was after a long time that reality finally sank in. A lot of disturbing things had flooded her life, depriving her of much needed sleep.
Headaches became a part of her life and it took the intervention of a physician who communicated expressly that she was stressed and not getting enough sleep, something that was significantly contributing to the detriment of her health.
A serious lifestyle shift coupled by therapy sessions brought about a renewed and energised person.
Her previous situation was not unique to her but is replayed across many households where people are failing to get adequate sleep as the cares of this world takes a serious toll on them.
Marital woes, wayward children, family wrangles, poverty and employment are some social problems that affect Africans on a day to day basis depriving them of rest and sleep when it is needed.
Health experts advise people to take between seven to nine hours of sleep per day but very few are adhering to that. There are a number of roles sleep plays in the body.
Sleep is essential in keeping the central nervous system. This is the information highway of functioning properly while chronic insomnia unsettles the body usually sending disinformation.
Sleep deprivation leaves the brain dog-tired and failing to perform its duties as well. Concentration on new things becomes a daunting task while signals sent by the body may also come at a delay, decreasing coordination skills and further compounding risks of accidents.
During sleep, the immune system produces protective, infection-fighting substances like cytokines which are responsible for combating foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. These cytokines also assist in getting sleep while reenergising the immune system so that it is able to stand and defend the body against illness.
Not getting enough sleep adversely affects the immune system disabling it from building up its forces. The body struggles to fend off invaders or delay one’s recovery from illness. Experts have also proven that long-term sleep deprivation also increases one’s risk for chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.
On the physical side, sleep is vital as it is involved in healing and repairing heart and blood vessels.
Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke while increasing the risk of obesity.
A study of teenagers showed that with each hour of sleep lost, the odds of becoming obese went up.
Another recent research revealed that people who work the late shift have a higher risk of developing breast and colon cancer because light exposure reduces melatonin levels.
Melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, is thought to protect against cancer as it appears to suppress the growth of tumours.
A number of other health benefits have been associated with sleep like reduction of stress, inflammation, improving memory, helps in losing weight as well as reducing depression risk.
Problems associated with chronic sleep loss need urgent professional assistance from trained personnel because it has serious health repercussions if left unchecked