A stage for inner voices, opinions, ideas and experiences

The Sleep Guide

Posted by Harish at Saturday, May 29, 2010

I must say that before collecting the required information for this post, I did not know that there is so much stuff involved with sleep. The main reason for me to choose this topic is that during exams I observed the difference in attitude, behaviour, alertness, memory, practically everything related to a person getting differed because of the change in sleep pattern. I started to ask so many questions regarding sleep and for some of those, I have found answers. I present them before you here in this post.

What is sleep?
Sleep is a state of suspended activity in our body during which our voluntary actions and muscles are partially or completely unconscious. During this state we are less likely to respond to stimuli. This state is easily reversible compared to coma or hibernation.

Why do we feel sleepy?
Everyday we do a lot of work. Mentally or physically. These generates a hormone called adenosine. The more adenosine we possess in our body, the more sleepy we feel. The amount of adenosine a person is able to hold without drifting to sleep varies from person to person. When the breaking point is reached, the internal clock of our body called circardian clock is signalled. This clock is the internal timekeeping, temperature-fluctuating, enzyme controlling device. Honestly I do not know where this is present in our body but what it does is controlling the enzymes in the body to do various activities like maintaining body temperature, falling asleep etc. So when adenosine has reached the breaking point, this circardian clock tells the body to fall asleep.

What are the benefits of sleep?
During sleep, almost our entire body is at rest. During this time, the growth enzymes are triggered. The muscles restored to full energy and dead cells are treated faster. Besides, the neurons are treated. During this time our memory is organised too. The adenosine accumulated is cleared up. So basically the entire body along with the brain is restored to full working condition.

What happens if I dont get enough sleep?
I guess by now it is obvious what happens due to lack of sleep. Most of the time if we do an excessive night out, we feel nervous, sleepy, tired, less alert, unable to make decisions and memory loss (happens often in the exam hall!). The lesser we sleep, the more sleep debt we accumulate.

How to pay back the sleep debt?
When the debt is small you can pay it back by having a good weekend's sleep. Don't make this a habit by sleeping less on weekdays and more on weekends as it will lead to more problems like insomnia. When the debt is large, you might consider taking a sleep vacation. Take a few days off and sleep as much as you can. It might sound ridiculous at first but it really works and after that you'll feel very fresh and energetic. 

How much sleep is adequate?
This one is pretty standard and easy to find answer to.
New born – Upto 18 hours
1 to 12 months – 14 to 18 hours
1 to 3 years – 12 to 15 hours
3 to 5 years – 11 to 13 hours
5 to 12 years – 9 to 11 hours
Adolescents – 9 to 10 hours
Adults and elderly – 7 to 8 hours

What happens during sleep?
During sleep we undergo various stages of sleep. They are as follows.
Stage N1: This is the starting stage. The inital time when our eyes move slowly under the eyelids. Musles loosen up. From this stage we can be awaken easily. Usually this lasts for a maximum of ten minutes .
Stage N2: The eye movements stop. Heart rate slows down and our body temperature decreases. This marks the beginning of sleep.
Stage N3: This is the deep sleep phase. Usually lasts a maximum of 70 minutes in the night time and less during dawn and day time. It is tough to awaken a person from this stage. This is the stage of muscular recovery. Blood flow and brain activity decreases and more of the restoration work is done on the other muscles of the body. This is why when you are awaken suddenly from this stage of sleep you feel groggy with a severe headache because blood takes a while to enter the brain and for brain to get back into full action. 
REM Stage: This phase is characterised by Rapid Eye Movement and hence the name REM. During this stage, the restoration is concentrated on the brain. So less blood flows to the other parts, the brain cells and neurons are restored. During the restoration of neurons, they organise the memory. This is why we get dreams. This stage of lesser duration during night and may extend upto 70 minutes during dawn and morning time sleep. That explains why we are able to remember the dreams which happen in early morning and just before we wake up mostly.
These four stages constitute a sleep cycle as follows N1 -> N2 -> N3 -> N2 -> REM. The entire sleep cycle lasts for around 90 minutes. So whenever you are sleeping, try to sleep in multiples of 90 minutes to let the cycle complete properly and hence an efficient sleep.

How do we know if we have enough sleep?
If you dont sleep immediately after falling down on the pillow and get up without using an alarm clock, you are having adequate sleep.

How to get better sleep?
The things which affect sleep are stress, pain, illness, drugs, illness, lack of regular sleep schedule or an uncomfortable environment. Avoiding these will give us a good sleep.

Concluding Remarks
Sleep is one thing which we humans are not able to fully understand and appreciate. Lots of research is happening in this field. So whatever information that I have presented here in this post is with regards to the present time. In future, these ideas may be further developed into a mature understanding of sleep.

The Extent of the so-called “Social Networking” sites

Posted by Harish.S at Friday, May 21, 2010

Facebook, Twitter, Orkut, MySpace are some of the sites which are pretty famous among youngsters now. The concept of Social networking was born in 1990’s to keep in touch with friends and family but it has evolved a lot. As of now, they are used as a source of advertisement ad money making venture by luring in people to use their features. It has changes the face of the internet ad Facebook has become one of the most popular sites in the internet. This advent of extensive social networking bought a lot of problems along with it.

• People become friends without knowing each others.
• People waste lots of time on non-productive activities such as games, quiz, and so on.
• Privacy problems.
• Addiction to social networking.
• Cut-off from the physical world.

There has been many problems and crimes reported because of Social networks. Kids are being blackmailed, bad company, money fraudulent cases, stress and strain and various other problems. To quote some:

1. A girl form Bangalore has been blackmailed by two of her Facebook friends for money and she has been stealing it from her mom regularly to give those guys. One day she was caught red handed and a police complaint was lodged on the two guys who were just of age 16 and 18.
2. A Mumbai girl sits in Facebook for almost 5 hours a day and had some 1500 friends in Facebook. She was under an emotional breakdown because her Facebook boy friend broke up with her and attempted for suicide.

I can just keep on giving even my personal experiences of waiting time in Facebook during exam, my friend wasting his whole time in his home playing a game in FB rather than spending time with friends and parents. The development of technology should be utilized for a productive work rather than this kind of time wasting entities. But I also don’t tell that Social Networking concept is a goner. Everything has its own limits and we should use it in a correct manner. Last but not the least, to end this with a quote I choose a Tamil saying which says “ALAVUKKU MEERINAAL AMURTHAMUM NANJU” (i.e.) Honey also turns into poison beyond a certain limit.
Post your comments.

Has Justice Been Served?

Posted by Harish at Sunday, May 16, 2010

Today I read an article in the Hindu. It was by a carnatic singer from Chennai. He expressed his views about the death sentence given to the lone captured terrorist from the Mumbai attacks, Ajmal Kasab. This is one of the most discussed and debated topics in India for quite some time now. But after reading it, I realized that I had my own views to share about the death sentence and I could find no better medium.

The people who speak for the judgment mostly say that the grievances of the families who lost their loved ones should be answered. Another one is that we should fight fire with fire and hence death sentence is the only way. I don't think the second reason is correct but the first one is acceptable. Losing your loved ones is something very sad and that needs to be answered. It might give some relief for these people by putting Kasab to death but we should also have in mind that it will not bring back the lost ones. What is gone is gone forever. And also remember that though he might be bad his family would not have been. Putting Kasab to death makes them lose their loved one. We have already lost ours, to feel better we are making others lose theirs. Sounds sadistic to me.

Now to the other side. The people who speak against the judgment say things like killing does not differentiate him from us, who gave us the right to kill, keeping him alive in life sentence breaks him down and though he might not turn good he will at least realize his mistakes, or the famous one – we are a non-violent country. For all these, I have one answer. In the battlefield, if a soldier kills the soldier of the opposite camp we say it is right. This situation we are in is also war, against terrorism. Unlike the traditional war, here the opposite camp army kills our country peasants and not the military. Still we do what we have to do in war. The judge could have ordered a life sentence or torture but he chose death sentence instead. You might ask that the prisoners of war are tried and then sentenced. Before the trial or the judgment has never been fair for the war prisoners. We did him a favor by death sentence and not any form of torture.

I have just shared my views on the debate so far. If Kasab is kept alive, in future some terrorist attack may happen for saving him like in the plane hijacking of the past. Pretty much what the judge had said. I just want to add one more point to that. It is not right to put him to torture. His life is tormented enough already with him doing nothing to get into it. Let us give him a quick exit like in war and pray to Him that at least in the next birth he be born in a better place.

Open for comments.