Let’s first understand what is meant by “elixir of life”?
The elixir of life is something that can help you to prolong your life - give you health, well-being and longevity.
Water can be considered the elixir of life because we cannot live without it.
Breath can be considered the elixir of life since we cannot live without breathing.
Similarly, sleep can be considered the elixir of life because of its various effects on us.
Without sleep, our life will be cut short, our health will be compromised and our well-being will be badly hit.
This fact dawned on me a few years back when a friend of mine passed away a couple of weeks before his 40th birthday. A perfectly healthy, happy, well-adjusted, successful, and extremely talented young man succumbed to death one summer morning in the year 2020. The death certificate gave the cause of death as “Myocardial Infarction” or in layman’s terms “Heart Attack”
But the real cause I discovered a couple of weeks later when I found out that for over 20 years he has been consistently sleeping less so that he can pour more of himself into his work, family life, social life, and interests such as running marathons, Tamil literature, philanthropy, etc.
It was such a shock to me that a consistent lack of sleep could kill a person without any prior warning. My friend was stealing several hours from his sleep regularly and sleep hit back by stealing decades from his life suddenly.
He had paid a lot of attention to eating the right food and exercising his body to keep himself healthy. He did not have any bad habits. He was a marathoner and was regular in his practice walks and runs. He paid full attention to two of the pillars of well-being - his nutrition and his exercise but completely ignored the third and most important pillar - sleep.
We cannot blame him because we are not taught about the importance of sleep in school or college. We learn it the hard way when a loved one passes away too soon or when a deadly disease strikes a loved one.
Cancer, Diabetes, Hypertension, CVDs (Cardio Vascular Diseases), Obesity, Chronic Respiratory Diseases, Alzheimer’s, Anxiety, Depression, and many more lifestyle diseases owe their existence to the sleep deprivation epidemic that has overrun the world in the last few decades.
On average, humans are sleeping almost 2 hours less per night than they did 100 years ago. One hundred years ago, the leading cause of death was infectious diseases such as pneumonia, flu, tuberculosis, or gastrointestinal infections. Today the leading causes of death are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, accidents, diabetes, Alzheimer's, etc
Dig deeper and you will find that ISS (Insufficient Sleep Syndrome) would have caused the onset of these diseases or created the environment for them to survive and thrive.
By robbing ourselves of our sleep, we are opening ourselves to early death or impaired functioning of the body, mind, and emotions
Some facts that you should know about sleep:
Humans above 18 years should be getting between 7-9 hours of sleep.
Sleep is a natural performance-enhancing medicine designed to perfection by nature over a million years of evolution and it is totally free.
If you believe the statement “you can sleep when you’re dead” it will most probably come true sooner than you think
A lack of sleep costs most nations 2% of their GDP.
You get physically exhausted 30% quicker when you are on 6 hours of sleep or less.
Athletes and those training for peak physical output perform better when they have slept fully after training and before big performances.
Risk of accidents or mistakes increases by 60% when you have been awake for more than 18 hours non-stop
Those training for weight loss will lose 70% of the weight loss from muscle and not fat when they are underslept.
If you saved 2 hours per night of sleep over the years, you are likely to develop Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, Heart disease, Diabetes, Cancer, or other lifestyle diseases sooner than you think.
Your ability to make poor food choices increase due to a lack of sleep at the right time. Lack of sleep increases the hunger hormone, ghrelin, and decreases the production of leptin (the hormone that signals you have eaten fully)
When you’re awake for over 20 hours, you are as impaired as if you were legally drunk.
Your ability to self-regulate and exert self-discipline gets severely impaired when you are sleep deprived
Just one night of four hours of sleep causes a 70% reduction in anti-cancer fighting immune cells.
Poor sleep prevents the repair of broken DNA
When you sleep, your mind replays what you have learned at 20X speed and smooths out the chinks in your learning. So learning and sleeping need to cohabit with each other
Sleeping before learning helps prepare your brain for the initial formation of memories and sleeping after learning is essential to save and solidify the new information in the brain cortex.
Deep Sleep clears out toxins and debris from the brain
Deep Sleep regulates our insulin levels and blood sugar.
Light can impact the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Dim the lights 30 to 60 mins before sleep
Alcohol blocks REM sleep and makes you tired the next day
Caffeine has a half-life of 6 hours and a quarter life of 12 hours. Don’t have coffee 12 hours before bedtime if you want to sleep easily and get quality sleep.
Regularity of timing is the single most important step to getting regular sleep easily
Core body temperature needs to drop by 2 degrees to help the onset of melatonin and subsequent sleep.
If all the above doesn’t convince you that sleep is the elixir of life then here are a few more to remind you of why it is so important.
Your body, mind, and emotions are repaired and rejuvenated every night when you sleep. You can wake up as if you are new every morning if you choose to
You connect with your soul and your creator every night during deep sleep
Your broken DNA and repaired every night when you sleep
Your cells are repaired, rejuvenated and recharged every night when you sleep
Your ability to live longer is enhanced by the right sleep at the right time for the right duration
Your fertility levels improve when you sleep right
Your skin, organs, and cells are renewed every night and stay fresh for longer
Your need for medicines is reduced and eliminated if you get the right sleep at the right time
Go reclaim your sleep, your health, and your life. As of going to press, sleep is still free.
What are you waiting for?
Set the alarm for 30 to 60 mins before your bedtime and wind down your day once the alarm goes off.
Switch off the lights
Switch on the AC and make your bedroom cool enough for your core body temp to drop (18o C)
Switch off all electronic displays (TV, mobile phone, ipads, etc)
Make your tomorrow’s TO DO list
List out your gratitudes for the day
Forgive those who hurt you and forgive yourself for not living up to your standards (in case you need to)
Connect with your loved ones and the Creator.
Hug them and go to sleep.