Category Archives: biology

Sleep: Not an Option

Did you know that human beings might need to spend at least 1/3 of their lives sleeping or nearly twenty-four years in bed over an average lifetime? Representing a basic human need and a part of individuals’ life, sleep is vital to people’s health and wellbeing. However, and despite the importance of sleep, many individuals take it for granted and don’t get enough of it while subsequent constant sleep loss may result in common health problems. Although most of us suffer from sleep difficulties at least a few nights per week, sporadic cases of insomnia don’t generally signify a big concern; nevertheless settling for a permanent sleep time of 4 to 6 hours a day can interfere with our daily lives.

While different abnormalities in the organism, emotional disorders, work shifts and other age, health and lifestyle conditions are tied to sleep problems and prevent a large number of people from getting the amount of sleep they need, those individuals who actually have the option of getting 8 or more hours of sleep but would rather choose to stay up late doing other things, should benefit instead from the much-needed rest that our minds and bodies require to function normally and stay healthy. As unimportant as they may seem, constantly staying late partying, talking to friends, playing online, working extra hours or studying, among others, are all factors that can drive individuals away form getting the right quantity and quality of sleep their bodies demand.

The exact amount of sleep required varies from person to person depending on people’s individual needs, health, age and lifestyle. For instance, some people are well rested after only 6 hours of sleep, but because of the human biological composition and our early hereditary makeup, individuals are not ready to run on small amounts of sleep for such genetic structure hasn’t developed as fast as to match the pace of the hectic society in which we live. In spite of these facts, experts at the National Sleep Foundation assert that getting 8 hours of sleep for adults and 8 to 9 hours for teenagers is desirable. Moreover, children usually need more sleep than adults, so specialists have estimated that kids between 3 to 5 years need 11 to 13 hours of sleep while children from 6 and up to 12 years need about 10 to 11 hours of sleep. A more detailed table published by the National Sleep Foundation allocating the number of hours needed for each age group can be found by clicking here.

More and more investigation studies conducted by sleep researchers and scientists have been revealed to confirm that deficient sleep causes health problems typically associated with hypertension, diabetes and weight gain, as well as neurobehavioral impairments (having the same effects as drinking alcohol); daytime drowsiness; irritability; apathy; moodiness; impaired memory; microsleeps (lasting from 5 to 10 seconds); stress; anxiety; increases in accidents, injuries and behavioral problems; deficiencies in the immune system; reduced concentration, learning and productivity; reduced longevity, reaction times and hypnagogic hallucinations (experienced between wakefulness and sleep), all of which are typical signs related to inadequate sleep. This means that depriving ourselves from sleep will not make the cut if we are to remain fully alert, creative, energetic and in a good mood during the normal course of our daily activities.

People are oftentimes motivated to spend less time sleeping and more time working, but they need to recharge their batteries during the night so that they can think more clearly during daytime. The problem is most individuals feel like they can’t afford what they believe to be the ‘luxury’ of spending so much time sleeping, yet the key lies precisely in that sleep is not a luxury but a necessity, or put in other terms is not an option but an actual need much in the same measure like diet and exercise are. Although individuals may condition their bodies to sleep only a few hours a day through their internal biological clock, the outcomes in the long term will negatively affect different aspects of a person’s life. For this reason, and because sleep seems to be required for survival, getting a good night sleep can mean the difference between performing well and falling asleep while at school or work.

When we scrimp on the amount of sleep we need, even if we only cut an hour, we develop a “sleep debt,” which is defined as the “accumulated sleep that is lost to poor sleep habits, sickness, awakenings due to environmental factors or other causes.” Now, if that sleep debt becomes too large, it can lead to sleepiness during the times at which we should be awake and alert, and even if we don’t feel sleepy, the product of the sleep debt will inevitably get in the way of our every day doings and our ability to function. In addition, sleep researchers confirm that individuals can’t regain sleep lost throughout the week by increasing the amount of sleep hours on the weekends; doing this will only interrupt our sleeping patterns and our body’s circadian rhythm, which is an internal 24-hour cycle that takes place in the organism to control different physiological processes and functions.

Furthermore, the circadian rhythm is influenced by daylight in such a way that we naturally tend to get sleepy at night when it’s dark and are energetic during the day when there’s light. Since our body’s functions change during day and nighttime, the circadian rhythm regulates them by ensuring the appropriate levels of each occur at the times they are supposed to. Brain tissue regenerates and memory is consolidated during night sleep, which makes developing an adequate sleeping routine extremely important.

To enhance our sleeping habits it helps to maintain standard sleep and wake schedules so that our bodies can become used to a regular waking and bedtime. In addition, avoiding alcoholic and caffeinated beverages, and heavy meals before sleep and during the day as well as eliminating cigarettes near bedtime or during the night, getting regular exercise and improving on the control of the sleep environment such as light, noise, temperature, pets, sleeping surface and sleeping partners can all help in standardizing sleep in a way that ensures we’re getting enough of it for optimal performance. Even though the exact reasons for sleep remain a mystery, many of the body’s major organs and systems continue to work actively during sleep, which makes this process so important for our minds and bodies. The sleeping brain is not a resting brain and the range of activities of it is central in regulating physical functions, revitalizing the body, and enhancing thought processes when awake, so that third of our lives that we should spend sleeping has a dramatic effect on the other two thirds.

As a shift worker, my brother used to be forced to sleep during the day while both the activities taking place around him and his circadian rhythm hinted at being awake. Although he was only on such schedule for 2 months, his body developed poor sleeping habits that remained long after he went back to working regular daytime hours and that still stay put to this day. What began as a “perfect excuse” to stay awake during the night has now become his new lifestyle. He is a smoker who gets very little if any sleep. He works only 4 days a week out of which 3 of them are 12-hour shifts. He leaves at 9:45am and gets back at around 11:15pm, but he doesn’t go to bed until 5 or 6 in the morning. He only gets a couple hours sleep for most of the week except for his days off when we have to wake him up at around 2pm for lunch.

He is moody most of the times and extremely irritable; to the point where any and every single subject has become a taboo topic to talk about around him since he gets aggressive and angry no matter what’s being said or how. He also tends to eat once or twice during the night but unlike the characteristic signs of most common sleep disorders, he hasn’t gained any weight whatsoever. He seems to forget that there are other people living around him as he speaks loud on the phone at 4am in the morning, as though it was completely normal, while interrupting my sleep. Sometimes he blasts the speakers with resounding music when everything else is silent and everyone else is trying to rest. He drinks lots of water and simply has a completely upside down routine that not only is affecting him but also affecting those around him to some extent.

I don’t know if any or all of the previous signs mean that my brother has some kind of sleep disorder, but it looks to me like he does. My parents insist to him on going to bed earlier and normalizing his schedule but he says he isn’t sleepy when the night falls, but of course he isn’t if he sleeps during the day.

Remember that sleep is one of life’s most basic activities and a necessity for the normal functioning of individuals “without which the body cannot make do for very long any more than it can without food or water. Deprived, it will suffer; and, in its efforts to restore the homeostatic balance of sleep and waking, it will make its demands imperative!” Sleep matters; so take time for it.

Image by: Hilary Quinn @ Stock.Xchng

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Posted by on February 25, 2007 in biology, brain, disease, dreams, health, sleep


Ban Animal Testing

Every year countless living creatures suffer and die to determine the safety of consumer products, to seek treatments and cures for human illness, and in an attempt to teach students about human biology. Each year, new personal care and household products are introduced into the marketplace; virtually and long before they appear on the shelves of our local supermarkets all of these products have gone through an extended and complex testing process that leaves millions of innocent animals poisoned, mutilated, burned and sacrificed in cruel tests. Animals should not be used in product testing because it is unnecessary, unreliable, and inhumane.


It is believed that law requires animal testing on cosmetics, but this statement has no truthful foundation. According to Karen Lee Stevens, author of a web article on animal testing, there is no law that requires companies to test their personal care and household products on animals. However, companies must conduct appropriate tests to corroborate the safety of their products before selling them to customers. Thanks to advancements in modern technology, scientists are seeking for better ways to test products by using non-animal methods; and although they have concluded that no single non-animal alternative thus far developed can completely replace some animal tests, companies are able to avoid animal testing by relaying on a series of non-animal options that are readily available.

For instance, there is a large number of ingredients already known to be safe, as well as information on historical use and chemical structure; human clinical studies are also valuable and accepted means of testing products. Other types of alternative methods that do not require the use of whole, living animas,l include in-vitro tests, computer modeling, tissue culture, human volunteer trials, and databases of tests that have been already done to avoid duplication. All of these alternative techniques produce fair quicker results, and do not involve animal cruelty.

In addition, lab animal testing produces a tremendous amount of misleading and unreliable results. According to a web article of the Coalition to Abolish Animal Testing (CAAT), animal research is based on a false premise that results obtained through animal experimentation can be applied to the human body; but in reality, animal models are limited, and although animals and humans share superficial similarities, they also are very different. Even those species that seem closely related, may function quite differently at a physiological, psychological, metabolic, anatomic, genetic, and molecular level; so solutions and drugs that affect animals in one way may well affect us differently, and there is no way of predicting what the differences will be.

Far from saving lives; the use of animals as models for humans has injured and killed thousands of people due to drugs and products that were found to be safe for other species. On the contrary, there are drugs that have been withheld from humans because they caused dangerous reactions in animals; but we will never know what promising treatments have been abandoned prematurely just because they did not work on animals.

Apart from the unreliability of animal testing, there is another powerful argument against this practice: the morality of using animals as though they are unfeeling scientific tools. Alix Fano, a New York writer and author of the book Lethal Laws, affirms that a majority of scientists claim that while it is unethical to experiment on humans, it is acceptable to experiment upon non-humans, and the inhumane treatment of animals in tests is due in part to the fact that anesthesia for the alleviation of pain is often not administered since scientists allege that using anesthesia will interfere with test results.

Animals continue to be innocent victims of painful eye and skin irritancy tests; they are force fed or forced to inhale huge quantities of substances like hair dye, face powder, toothpaste and even household cleaners until half of them start displaying symptoms of poisoning and many of them die. In other tests, concentrated substances like shampoo are applied to the eyes of animals (usually rabbits) producing terrible long-lasting pain with swelling, discharge, blistering and destruction of the cornea. Other experiments involve the immobilization of unanaesthetized animals in restraint devices. The animals’ skin is shaved until raw, and the test product such as deodorant or after-shave astringent is applied.

Besides the exposition of animals to extreme pain and as stated by the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS), it is inhumane to confine animals in artificial environments that deprive them of experiencing the ecological role that nature intended for them. Animals are completely vulnerable to whatever the research has in store for them no matter how much pain and suffering is involved.

We are committed to change, but change can only take place with the support of people like you, me and all of us. Animal product testing is unnecessary, unreliable, and inhumane; and you can help animals by learning more about this issue and sharing your thoughts with your family and friends. As consumers, we can make a difference in the lives of innocent animals by purchasing only products labeled “cruelty-free.” Animals should not be viewed as sources and products, but as fellow living creatures who share our planet, and they deserve moral consideration that recognizes their rightful place in the vast and complex web of life.

Feel free to comment back!

Written by: Coraline, April 2002

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Posted by on December 13, 2006 in animal testing, animals, biology, controversy, cruelty, humanity

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