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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Sleep and music

1 March 2019

Welcome to Autumn 2019.

Sleep and music, two of life's most enjoyable pleasures -- if you're lucky enough to be able to enjoy them.

Let's start with sleep first...

Although much research has been done into sleep in recent times, there are still many mysteries surrounding the need for sleep and what happens if we don't get enough of it. The most recent study indicates that a lack of sleep has significant negative impact on your health, predisposing you to obesity, diabetes, cardio-vascular disease and worse.

It is now widely accepted that the average adult should get at least seven hours of sleep per night and, just as importantly, that sleep should take place at the same time -- so as to avoid messing with your body's built-in clock and the circadian rhythm it drives.

Unfortunately, far too many people burn the candle at both ends and are regularly sleep deprived. This could help account for the obesity epidemic that is sweeping the Western world.

Sadly, trying to catch up on lost sleep by having a lay in on the weekend is essentially ineffective as a coping strategy and may actually complicate the issue by screwing with your circadian rhythms -- or so this report suggests. However, a different report seems to contradict that. Go figure!

Now I can testify first-hand as to the importance of good sleep, thanks to my Parkinson's.

Most nights I get very little "quality" sleep and often find myself stirring and becoming "wide awake" just an hour or two after putting my head down. From that point onwards, my night's sleep consists of half an hour of restless turning followed by maybe 15 minutes of light dozing -- lather, rinse, repeat.

By about 4am I've had enough and simply get up for the day -- which is why, the more alert amongst you, will have noticed that Aardvark is being published quite early in the morning these days.

Sometimes, if I'm very lucky, I'll squeeze a "power nap" in during the day but mostly I just put up with the fatigued feeling that accompanies this lack of sleep. It's a well recognised symptom of the disease and there's not a hell of a lot that can be done about it so I'll just "suffer in my jocks".

However, the night before last I was lucky enough to get a full eight-hours of uninterrupted sleep. I have no idea what was the catalyst for this but it was truly amazing and made me realise just how badly I've been knocked around by sleep deprivation. When I awoke (at 4am) yesterday morning I felt full of energy, invigorated and "ready to go". This was a huge contrast to what has become my "normal" state.

Even better, this energy lasted well into the day and it felt like most of the symptoms I usually suffer from (heavy limbs, slow movements, tremors) had gone. It was great!

All I can think is that the protracted period of good sleep had restored dopamine levels in my brain... albeit temporarily and I was functioning "normally".

Sadly however, by last evening, I was crashing and things were slowing down. Then, as if to really accentuate the difference, I had an awful night's sleep last night and I feeling crappy, slow and fatigued again today. Still, it was a nice holiday from these annoying symptoms for just one day.

So yes, I can vouch for the need to get a good, solid night's sleep -- it makes a world of difference!

And secondly today... hands up all those who used to listen to music when studying?

Well I put my hand up and I'm sure most others did as well but if you did, I have bad news for you...

Another study just released indicates that listening to music significantly impedes your creativity. It's almost as if a part of your cerebral processing gets hijacked by the music and becomes unavailable for high-level tasks.

Who'd have thought?

So if you're swatting for an exam, trying to cut some code, or just attempting write the next "Lord of the Rings" book then you'd better switch off Spotify.

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