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Sleep secrets reduce heart attacks - Churchill's advice


Is there any university that is not researching sleep? It is still a dark continent, and discoveries are likely to help millions and possibly make millions. Science still does not know why we sleep, but it does know we need it. Robert Lee Hotz reported in the WSJ yesterday –

“After a few restless nights, most of us can't even think straight. We are less able to make sense of problems, make competent moral judgments or retain what we learn, even though studies show our brain cells fire more frenetically to overcome the lack of sleep. Lose too much sleep and we become reckless, emotionally fragile, and more vulnerable to infections and to diabetes, heart disease and obesity, recent research suggests.”

Hotz quoted the research of two British universities. “The expectation of a nap, however, is by itself enough to measurably lower our blood pressure, researchers at the Liverpool John Moores University in England reported in October in the Journal of Applied Physiology.”

Naps may substantially decrease the risk of heart attacks. "Working men who took a siesta for 30 minutes or more at least three times a week - had a 64% lower risk of heart-related death," according to the University of Athens.

As usual Winston Churchill was ahead of the research universities. He took a nap (in his pajamas) every afternoon. During World War II his staff had strict instructions not to awake him ‘unless the island is invaded’. He wrote, ''Nature had not intended mankind to work from 8 in the morning until midnight without the refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts 20 minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces” (The Gathering Storm).

Sleep helps us strengthen new motor skills, sort and store memories, and solve problems, but unfortunately not all of us can equal my co-editor's determination to get needed sleep. Called while he was catching a nap in the hospital and informed that a patient would arrive by ambulance in 15 minutes, he thoughtfully told the nurse he would just finish his dream, and be right down. By his account, he did.

For hapless souls like myself who find it difficult to go back to sleep, the University of Surrey’s Sleep Research Centre recently reported on a genetic angle –

“Sleep is controlled partly by our genes. The difference between those of us who naturally wake at dawn and night owls who are wide-eyed at midnight may be partly due to variations in a gene named Period3, which affects our biological clock. Variations in that gene also make some people especially sensitive to sleep deprivation.”

I think I am one of those sensitive people, but happily, reading about sleep studies makes me feel sleepy. . .