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, collapse! d 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 amongst 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
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.
1. Short sleep duration ( <5 or 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 as likely to get high BP
if they sleep less.
3 Individuals who slept less than 5 hours a night had a 3-fold increased
risk of heart attacks.
4 Complete and partial lack of sleep increased the blood 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 toxic substances 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 <=5 hours per night leads to 39% increase in heart disease.
Sleeping for <=6 hours per night leads to 18% increase in heart disease.
In brief, sleep is composed of two stages: REM ( Rapid Eye Movement ) and
non-REM. The former helps in mental consolidation while the 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 that period, 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 your immunity is way down.
Finally, as long-distance runners, you need an hour of extra sleep to repair the running related damage.
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.
Unfortunately, Ranjan Das is not alone when it comes to missing sleep. Many
of us are doing exactly the same, perhaps out of ignorance. Please forward this mail to
your colleagues/friends as possible, especially those who might be
short-changing their sleep. If we can save even one young
life because of this email, we would be the happiest person on earth.