Why sleep is very important for the body to be alive and kicking – Insights from true stories

I am usually sleepy by 10 pm and struggle to keep my eyes open, all the more when I am at the wheels! My wife Indira calls umpteen number of times, if I am driving beyond 10 pm, to make sure that I get out of the car. She also complains that I am a party-pooper, as I hit the bed early, when all others are getting into the mood. So is the case, when I excuse myself from any get-together with ‘sleep’ as the reason!

In fact, I came out of a near death accident once, while driving alone in the countryside and slept off at the wheel, only to find my Scorpio air-borne and then landing in a thud in the paddy fields by the side of a national highway. I only know how I survived and came out of it.

I am usually sleepy by 10pm and try to hit the bed, but I find myself up and awake in 4-5 hours, rearing to go by 3am. During my student days, even at IIM, I used to head to the library at 3am while the whole campus is heading back to their dens. I took pride in only ‘4-5 hours’ sleep that I needed….

…. Until my brother, Dr. Parameswaran, passed me this story of Late Sri Ranjan Das [From: DR.N Siva (Senior Cardiologist)]. I did a little research to put this together, for myself and for many others who need to respond and change.

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Here is the story of Ranjan Das, then CEO and MD of SAP-Indian subcontinent, one of the youngest CEOs in India then. I found this short clip by NDTV..

Ranjan shares that working out regularly, eating healthy and catching plenty of sleep are important for the physical well-being of every human being! He goes on to say, that he does well on the first two, but the third one is the scarcity…

Ranjan, unfortunately died after a massive cardiac arrest in Mumbai in Oct 2009.

What killed Ranjan Das?

He was very active in sports, was a fitness freak and a marathon runner.

After his workout, he collapsed with a massive heart attack and died. He is survived by his wife and two very young kids. It was certainly a wake-up call for corporate India. However, it was even more disastrous for runners.

The question arises as to why an exceptionally active, athletic person succumbed to a heart attack at 42 years of age.

What is the real reason?

Everyone missed out a small line in the reports that Ranjan used to manage with 4-5 hours of sleep. In the above interview clip of Ranjan on NDTV in the program ‘Boss’ day out’, Ranjan Das himself admitted that he sleeps less and would love to get more sleep.

Short sleep duration

Young people (25-49 years of age) are twice as likely to get high BP if they sleep less. Individuals who sleep less than 5 hours a night have a 3-fold increased risk of heart attacks.

  • Just one night of sleep loss increases very toxic substances in body such as Interleukin-6 (IL-6), Tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and C-reactive protein (CRP). They also cause cancer, arthritis and heart disease.
  • Sleeping for <=5 hours per night leads to 39% increase in heart disease. Sleeping for <=6 hours per night leads to 8% increase in heart disease.

What is ideal sleep?

In brief, sleep is composed of two stages: REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and non-REM. The former helps in mental consolidation while the latter helps in physical repair and rebuilding.

  • No wonder when one wakes up with an alarm clock after 5-6 hours of sleep, he/she is mentally irritable throughout the day (lack of REM sleep).
  • And if somebody has slept for less than 5 hours, the body is in a complete physical mess (lack of non-REM sleep), the person is tired throughout the day and immunity is way down.

In conclusion:

Barring stress control, Ranjan Das did everything right: eating proper food, exercising, maintaining proper weight. But he missed getting proper and adequate sleep, minimum 7 hours. That killed him.

We are playing with fire if we are sleeping less than 7 hours, even if we have low stress.

Do not set your alarm clock under 7 hours.

Ranjan Das is not alone. Do Share it with all the Good People In your Life..

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Enough of this ‘ego-boosting’ stuff, I resolve to sleep at least 7 hours. Let me relax more. You too respond, for yourself and your family…

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