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Why Do Earth Creatures Need Sleep And Why Aren't We Getting It?

By James Donahue

One of the problems people are facing in our chaotic and complex times is getting enough sleep. We struggle with this so much that the pharmaceutical companies are seeing big profits just from the sale of sleeping medications.

Some doctors now specialize in sleep disorders and some hospitals have established sleep clinics to assist people suffering from extreme sleep problems like sleep apnea, a breathing disorder that causes constant interruption of the sleep cycle.

Surveys by the National Sleep Foundation between 1999 and 2004 found that abut 40 million Americans suffer from over 70 different sleep disorders and 60 percent of adults complain of sleep problems a few nights a week, or more. Also, over 40 percent of these adults said daytime sleepiness was severe enough to interfere with their jobs or other daily activities.

Thus our inability to get a good night of sleep is much more serious than most of us may have thought.

This writer has suffered from an inability to get a full night of natural sleep for most of his adult life. If left to my own devices, I would nap for about two to three hours, then get up and go for a part of a day, then return to bed for another short respite. That seems to be something that would come natural to me. But the social structure demands that we work eight hours on the job, then have a social life, and sleep for eight-hour periods. Alarm clocks make sure we awaken on time to start that unnatural pattern over and over again.

Shifts in time, brought about by Daylight Savings advocates that want more time on the golf course, jar even this cycle twice a year, causing internal human clocks to go haywire. And that only serves to compound the problem and make us even more tired.

It was said that Thomas Edison, who spent much of his time in his own workplace, thinking about ways to utilize new inventions for pleasure and profit, also was unable to sleep more than a few hours at a time. He kept a cot in his laboratory, and when his body demanded rest, he took "cat-naps." It was said that Edison rarely slept a full night in a bed.

This having been said, we return to the question: why must we sleep at all? To those of us who glory in the act of art and creativity, it sometimes seems a bother to stop what we are doing to take care of all of life's demands, like going to the bathroom, eating, taking baths and sleeping. Even more disliked are those mundane chores that include taking out the garbage, fixing broken stuff, mowing the lawn and going to the store.

We do know that sleep is a mandatory necessity, even though we don't fully understand why. All mammals on this planet sleep. If they are deprived of sleep it is known that they fall apart physically and die quite fast. There seems to be a built-in repair system in the body that goes to work on both the mind and body while we are off in that state of dreamland.

People who study sleep say there are two cycles that we go through during a good full night of rest. The first is called slow-wave sleep. This seems to be the time when the body goes into self repair and mental cleanup. The brain is actually in a state of idle and everything but the basic senses are still operating. The heart is pumping, the lungs are working, and the ears are still tuned in to the world around us. That is about it.

The second cycle, which involves the important last quarter of our eight-hour sleep period, is called REM sleep. This is a time when we dream, there is rapid eye movement, and our brain is busy. Nobody understands REM sleep, although we theorize that it plays a role in solving personal problems, putting things in perspective, giving us psychic and even prophetic visions, and may even be a time when we leave the body and join the astral world.

It also is known that interrupted sleep, sleeping medication, and other problems rob us of REM sleep. And that appears to be a problem that needs to be resolved if we hope to stabilize a society that is currently on a race-track toward self destruct.

It is said that electronic and noise pollution plays a key role in insomnia issues. People that live in town have their sleep patterns broken by sirens, passing snowmobiles, loud car exhaust systems, ringing telephones, drunken brawls in the neighborhood, and a variety of other occurrences, many of them caused by contemporary appliances and machines operated by thoughtless and uncaring dolts.

The problem of electronic pollution is more subtle and probably much more deadly that most of us realize. No matter where we live, our homes are being bombarded by not only radio and television waves, but cell-phone signals bouncing from nearby towers and satellites, the military mysterious H.A.R.P. program, and other new and secret devices designed to try to protect us from terrorism. We are not physically aware of these electronic signals, but they are having a constant affect on our nervous systems, sometimes to the point of causing irritability without justification.

Silent, invisible stimulations like that, constantly invading our bedrooms, are likely the biggest cause of sleeplessness everywhere.