Sleep is vital for good health – especially in CFS

Sleep is vital for good health – especially in CFS by Dr Sarah Myhill MB BS

Humans evolved to sleep when it is dark and wake when it is light.

Sleep is a form of hibernation when the body shuts down in order to repair damage done through use, to conserve energy and hide from predators.

The normal sleep pattern that evolved in hot climates is to sleep, keep warm and conserve energy during the cold nights and then sleep again in the afternoons when it is too hot to work and hide away from the midday sun.

As humans migrated away from the Equator, the sleep pattern had to change with the seasons and as the lengths of the days changed.

Get the hours of sleep

People needed more sleep during the winter than in the summer in order to conserve energy and fat resources. Furthermore during the summer humans had to work long hours to store food for the winter and so dropped the afternoon siesta.

But the need for a rest (if not a sleep) in the middle of the day is still there. Therefore it is no surprise that young children, elderly and people who become ill often have an extra sleep in the afternoon and for these people that is totally desirable. Others have learned to “power nap”, as it is called, during the day and this allows them to feel more energetic later.

If you can do it then this is an excellent habit to get into – it can be learned! The average daily sleep requirement is nine hours, ideally taken between 9.30pm and 6.30am, i.e. during hours of darkness, but allow for more in the winter and less in the summer.

An hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after – this is because human growth hormone is produced during the hours of sleep before midnight.

To show how important the balance of hours of sleep and rest are, divide the day into 12 hours of activity and 12 hours of rest. If you have one extra hour of activity (13 hours), you lose an hour of rest and sleep (11 hours). The difference is two hours!

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