All birds and mammals sleep, along with many fish, amphibians and reptiles. Scientists study sleep intensively, but they are still not sure exactly what is, and most especially what it is for. There are many contradictions. Babies of almost all species sleep far more than adults, yet in some marine mammals such as killer whales, new born babies don’t sleep at all for the first month of life. Some birds (as well as Dolphins) can sleep with one half of their brains, while the other remains awake. For the rest of us, sleep is a period of unconsciousness which usually occupies around one third of our day. Science continues to argue over it’s purpose, but what is agreed is that sleep is absolutely essential to health.
In a recent study scientists at the University of Warwick and at University College London found that lack of sleep can increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, while another study at the University of California showed that individuals who report getting 6 to 7 hours sleep each night live longer than those who don’t. But that’s not all.
In 2004 a study showed that wounds in mice heal more slowly when they are sleep deprived and in 2007 a further study showed that the immune systems of sleep deprived mice were compromised after only a 24 hour period. Research also shows that working memory is far less effective if you don’t get enough sleep. And there are countless other studies all showing the same thing. But do we really need scientific studies to tell us something we all know?
Without adequate sleep we all get cranky, ask any new parent, but sleep isn’t something we can all summon at will. Knowing how essential it is to get a solid 7 hours doesn’t help you get to sleep in the middle of the night when you can’t stop thoughts racing through your head. And this is yet another problem for scientists.
What exactly causes sleeplessness? Why can some people fall asleep easily while others find it extremely difficult? Sadly, we just don’t know. What we do know is that some factors which make sleep more difficult, such as noise, unfamiliar surroundings, depression, pain and anxiety. Equally some factors are known to promote sleep; darkness or dim light, gentle rocking, and certain rhythmic sounds, like rain, waves or the sound of a waterfall. But while we’d all love to own a house on the shore and fall asleep to the sounds of the waves lapping gently on the shore, reality is rather different. But there is hope.
Dr Lee Bartel is a professor of Music at the University of Toronto. His research has involved the use of music therapy for stress management as well as ADD and lead to the production of the Sound Oasis therapy systems. These systems play natural, sleep inducing sounds to help you get the sleep which is necessary for your health. There are several models to choose from, some with a fixed selection of sounds while other use interchangeable ‘sound cards’. The systems work on both battery and mains supply so they are ideal for travel, another situation which often causes lack of sleep. There’s more.
If you don’t think the sounds of the rain forest are for you, how about the nightwave? This system has a similar aim to the Sound Oasis, but uses a gentle pulsing blue light projected onto the bedroom ceiling. By synchronising your breathing with the pulsing light you can gently fall into the sleep you need.
Insomnia sounds trivial but is debilitating over time. Simple problem become insurmountable in the depths of the night and life seem to attract difficulties during the day. If you’re suffering from insomnia you owe to yourself and your loved ones to take a look the products which can help. No drugs, just simple soothing sounds to help you sleep the night away.