How to Cure Sleep Deprivation
Sleep is vital for our wellbeing. A lack of sleep can cause mental problems which in turn lead to physical problems and even, in the case of laboratory animals, death.
Chronic sleep deprivation has severe adverse effects on the brain and cognitive functions. Chronic sleep deprivation can cause fatigue, clumsiness akin to being drunk, daytime sleepiness and weight loss or weight gain.
Sleep deprivation has been used as a means of torture by various countries. A German World War 2 memo from Gestapo Chief Heinrich Muller authorized 'extreme interrogation' techniques such as the imposition of extreme cold, sleep deprivation, and beatings.
A 2000 study published in theBritish Medical Journal, describes how researchers in Australia and New Zealand reported that sleep deprivation can have some of the same hazardous effects as being drunk. (Williamson AM, Feyer AM (October 2000)."Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication" Occup Environ Med 57 (10): 649–55).
People who drove after being awake for 17–19 hours performed worse than those with a blood alcohol level of .05 percent. Another study showed that 21 hours awake was equivalent to a blood alcohol content of .08 percent.
Long distance truck drivers and others who lack sleep because of their jobs combat the effects in the short term with drugs such as caffeine and other stimulants but these drugs have no effect in the long term. And excess consumption of coffee and stimulants over the long term has undesirable side effects.
Unfortunately the medications some people use to combat sleeplessness can be deadly. Michael Jackson is a well known case, he suffered from chronic sleep deprivation and it killed him.
An estimated 10% of Americans use sleeping pills to combat sleeplessness and their use can also cause death. According to an article in the Guardian (UK) newspaper:
Commonly used sleeping pills, such as temazepam and zolpidem, which is prescribed for short-term insomnia, are associated with more than a fourfold risk of death, according to the study published in the BMJ Open journal.
The study was carried out in the US, The authors estimate that sleeping pills may have been associated with 320,000 to 507,000 extra deaths in the US that year. (Sarah Boseley,, Monday 27 February 2012)
So sleeplessness causes ill health. A good night's sleep, on the other hand, is a time when the body heals itself, both mentally and physically. Medication such as sleeping pills does not lead to a good night's sleep and may even cause death. How, then, can we get a good night's sleep in a healthy and natural way?
Meditation and Sleep
Meditation generally promotes good health, it induces mental and physical relaxation and this leads to healthy, natural sleep.
I first learned meditation in the early 1970s, as a graduate student in Canada. I learned Transcendental Meditation (TM®). I started Buddhist meditation about fifteen years ago and have practiced it regularly ever since. I never have trouble sleeping despite the fact that I am seventy three years old.
I meditate regularly, but meditation means focus and staying awake. When I want to sleep I revert to TM®, using the secret mantra I was given forty tears ago.
I recommend two things to combat sleeplessness, the first is general meditation, and this develops wellness and helps in all aspects of life. If you have no good local teacher I recommend Eric Harrison of the Perth Meditation Centre:
I have not solicited or received any reward from Eric Harrison. I strongly recommend his books and CDs, which I paid for, to anyone who would like a good grounding in meditation.
The second thing is what I do when I go to bed, and when I wake in the night, and that is reciting a mantra, I can't give you my mantra but let me introduce the work of Dr Herbert Benson.
In 1975 Dr. Herbert Benson, a pioneer of Mind Body medicine at Harvard Medical School, in his ground-breaking book The Relaxation Response, introduced the medical benefits of meditation to the West. Research inspired by Dr. Benson has shown that The Relaxation Response can help treat ailments such as cancer and heart disease because it helps the patient to release tension. (Herbert Benson, Miriam Z. Klipper, The Relaxation Response, HarperCollins, 2000)
There is overwhelming evidence to show that meditation results in improved health. Dr Herbert Benson uses a mantra or simple phrase in inducing the Relaxation Response in 1974. Dr. Benson’s work provided the impetus for mind body medicine that continues at Harvard Medical School and elsewhere to this day.
The seminal work of Dr. Benson stripped away the mysticism from Transcendental Meditation and showed that the simple mental repetition of a word such as ‘one’ or ‘peace’ results after about 20 minutes in the relaxation response.
So when you want to go to sleep lie on your back or, as the Buddha sometimes did when meditating, on your side, or on your front, relax physically and repeat the mantra 'one' (recommended by Dr Benson) or 'peace' or some other one-syllable word you find appropriate, in time with your breaths. What keeps us awake is thoyghts that occupy our minds such as problems or plane for the future. Concentrate on your mantra and these other, perhaps troubling thoughts, cannot intrude on your mind.
This may not work for you instantly; the relaxation response will most likely take some time to be effective. We know from Neuro Science, the science of the brain, that the brain is plastic. New thoughts and ideas are imprinted on the brain with practice.
Neuroplasticity is the hot new topic in neuroscience. Many recent studies using the new MRI scanners have shown that the human brain is plastic, that it reacts to new stimuli by building new neural pathways. A good way to think of plasticity is to consider modeling clay. When a coin is pressed into the clay it leaves an imprint. When a thought occurs in a human brain it also leaves an imprint. After a while a barrage of similar thoughts leaves a lasting imprint.
London taxi drivers need to pass a special test before they can drive one of the city's famous black cabs. This test is called The Knowledge. All-London drivers have to learn some 400 routes. They also need to know all the landmarks and places of interest along the routes.
It takes between two and four years to pass the All-London Knowledge. Cab drivers' brains enlarge and adapt to help them store a detailed mental map of the city, according to well known research.
Taxi drivers given brain scans by scientists at University College London had a larger hippocampus compared with other people. This is a part of the brain associated with navigation.
The scientists also found part of the hippocampus grew larger as the taxi drivers spent more time in the job.
We can be said to have learned something when that learning changes the structure of the brain. Research on Tibetan monks by Professor Davidson at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, my alma mater, shows that meditation changes the structure of monks’ brains.
If you practice the relaxation response Neuroplasticity will imprint the mantra in your brain and associate it with relaxation and sleep. When this happens you will forever be safe from insomnia.
Another way to combat insomnia is with brainwave entrainment. To find out about this please contact me at my website, below.

Dr. Michael Petty, Ph.D
Copyright Michael Petty, 2012

Author's Bio: 

Author's Bio:
Dr. MICHAEL PETTY is a leading authority on accelerated learning, IQ, Neuro Science and brainwave entrainment. He has a BA from Durham UK, an MA from Calgary and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He was a Canada Council Doctoral Fellow and his 1980 research on change in IQ scores, published in the British Journal Educational Research is still cited in Psychological texts. His latest book is Michael Petty, IQ Unlimited, Amazon Kindle.
Michael is certified in Mind/Body medicine.
Visit Michael's website