Riva Capellari

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Located in Brookside in the heart of Kansas City

Your Brain on Sleep

Despite the occasional 80 degree day, the shorter days and cooler evenings signal that fall has most definitely arrived. That being said, the advent of electricity has given us back some of those darkened hours, but do we really need all of them?

Two thirds of adults in developing nations get less than eight hours of sleep, the recommended dose by the way, of the World Health Organization. Whether you wear your sleep deprivation as a badge of honor or fear your quest for 8 hours of sleep every night might label you a wuss, this article may stimulate some thought on the subject and possibly, your life style.

During sleep our brain’s janitorial staff is hard at work, clearing out and recycling toxins accumulated during our waking hours. If some of these chemicals, like amyloid are not broken down, they can build up and bring about dementia or Alzheimers. It is during deep sleep that our brain secretes chemicals that repair our body and brain from the wear and tear of the daily grind. Lack of sleep causes degeneration of neurons essential for alertness and cognitive function. According to Dr. Matthew Walker, neuroscientist and sleep specialist,“after being awake 19 hours, you’re as cognitively impaired as someone who is drunk”.

Need more motivation to get those 8 hours in? Even one night of not enough sleep can speed up your heart rate and drop the number of cancer killing cells by 70%. Reduced sleep may also cause weight gain as it increases your hunger hormone, while decreasing the one that tells you you are full. It has negative effects on the body’s ability to control blood sugar and weakens the immune system – there is a reason we need to sleep when we are ill. Seven or eight hours of sleep is like a balm to our mental health, filtering out the tumult of the day while we get some shut eye.

A healthy voice must live inside a healthy body. And since singing demands serious brain work, it is important that my students (especially my teenagers) arrive at their lessons, alert with a well-functioning brain.

The upside of shorter days for me is I tend to retire earlier and sleep a little later, getting a nice full 8 hours of sleep time. I do some of my best thinking as I emerge from a restful night allowing myself space and time for contemplation before joining the buzzing world. I wonder what condition our country and world would be in if everyone had a good night’s sleep every night.

The Shorter Your Sleep, the Shorter Your Life: the new sleep science. Rachel Cooke. The Guardian, 9/24/2017. Goodnight. Sleep Clean. Maria Konnikova. NYT, 1/12/14. Why Sleep is Precious. Gabrielle deGroot Redford. AARP Magazine. Dec/Jan 2015.

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