Stress and Sleep Loss Kill Us, Please Do Something About It

Death doesn’t cross our mind quite often unless it happens to our close friends, loved ones or someone we care. However, we always wonder how someone who’s very young dies. We never stop questioning how someone who has a healthy life, does a good lifestyle, consumes healthy food, exercise regularly or even more, can leave us much earlier than we can ever imagine.

I know, it’s a God’s decision, plan and concept of giving a new life to someone. It’s something we can never think of, thing we can never figure out, an indefinite time we can never measure. However, we always wonder what causes someone’s death because of our inability to guess The Almighty’s plan.

We try to link someone’s death to our lives and try to take a lesson out of it. Maybe this will give us an important lesson, despite the unknown plan of God, we should take care of ourselves and pay more attention to our life because that will show gratefulness to The One who gives us the most beautiful journey called, Life.

Ranjan Das, CEO and MD of SAP Indian subcontinent died after a massive cardiac arrest in Mumbai on WednesdayOne of the youngest CEOs, he was just 42 year old!! What killed Ranjan Das and Lessons for Corporate India. A few months ago, many of us heard about the sad demise of Ranjan Das from Bandra, Mumbai. He was very active in sports, was a fitness freak and a marathon runner. It was common to see him run on Bandra’s Carter Road. Just after Diwali, on 21st Oct, he returned home from his gym after a workout, collapsed with a massive heart attack and died.

It was certainly a wake-up call for corporate India. However, it was even more disastrous for runners among us. Since Ranjan was an avid marathoner (in Feb 09, he ran Chennai Marathon at the same time some of us were running Pondicherry Marathon 180 km away), the question came as to why an exceptionally active, athletic person succumb to heart attack at 42 years of age.

Was it the stress?

While Ranjan had mentioned that he faced a lot of stress that is a common element in most of our lives. We used to think that by being fit, one can conquer the bad effects of stress. The Real Reason However, everyone missed out a small line in the reports that Ranjan used to make do with 4-5 hours of sleep. This is an earlier interview of Ranjan on NDTV in the program. Well-known cardiologist on the subject of ‘Heart Disease caused by Lack of Sleep’ have distilled the key points below in the hope it will save some of our lives.

Some Excerpts:

  1. Short sleep duration ( <5or 5-6 hours ) increased risk for high BP by 350% to 500%compared to those who slept longer than 6 hours per night.
  2. Young people ( 25-49 years of age ) are twice aslikely to get high BP if they sleep less.
  3. Individuals who slept less than 5 hours a night hada 3-fold increased risk of heart attacks.
  4. Complete and partial lack of sleep increased theblood concentrations of High sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hs-cRP),the strongest predictor of heart attacks. Even after getting adequate sleep later, the levels stayed high!!
  5. Just one night of sleep loss increases very toxicsubstances in body such as Interleukin-6 (IL! -6), Tumour Necrosis Factor-Alpha (TNF-alpha) and C-reactive protein (cRP). They increase risks of many medical conditions, including cancer, arthritis and heart disease.
  6. Sleeping for <=5hours per night leads to 39% increase in heart disease. Sleeping for <=6 hours per night leads to 18% increase in heart disease.

Ideal Sleep

In brief, sleep is composed of two stages: REM ( RapidEye Movement ) and non-REM. The former helps in mental consolidation whilethe latter helps in physical repair and rebuilding. During the night, you alternate between REM and non-REM stages 4-5 times. The earlier part of sleep is mostly non-REM. During thatperiod, your pituitary gland releases growth hormones that repair your body.

The latter part of sleep is more and more REM type. For us to be mentally alert during the day, the latter part of sleep is more important. No wonder when you wake up with an alarm clock after 5-6 hours of sleep, you are mentally irritable throughout the day (lack of REM sleep). And if you have slept for less than 5 hours, your body is in a complete physical mess ( lack of non-REM sleep ), you are tired throughout the day, moving like a zombie and yourimmunity is way down.

Finally, as long-distance runners, you need an hour of extra sleep to repair the running related damage.

In conclusion:

Barring stress control, Ranjan Das did everything right: eating proper food, exercising ( marathoning! ), maintaining proper weight. But he missed getting proper and adequate sleep, minimum 7 hours. In our opinion, that killed him. If you are not getting enough sleep ( 7 hours ), you are playing with fire, even if you have low stress.

One thing I can tell after having written this blog: The death of someone teaches us to appreciate more on the life we have, the blessings we posses, the bittersweet of every memory that happens to us every time the clock ticks. Let’s love we have. Let’s live the life we do. Let’s be grateful for as long as we shall live.

Steny Agustaf



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