By – Dr. Ashutosh Pradhan                                                                        Click Here to download PDF

How much time does a person spend in sleeping? Were Napoleon and Thomas Edison correct when they advocated that people should sleep less? How can a person know how much sleep he requires? Why does a person need to sleep at all? How can a busy person keep from wasting time unnecessarily in sleep?

Sleep – What’s that?

Usually we perceive surrounding things using our five senses mainly touch, smell, sight, taste, hearing. The inputs received from these five send organs are analysed by the brain and it further instructs the body part to take actions based on the messages received from these five sense organs. When the brain exhausts or experiences fatigue and when it needs a rejuvenating break, that is the time you tend to lose control over these sense organs and your eyes starts closing and you experience a phenomenon termed as sleep. Additionally, a hormone – Melatonin that is secreted after sunset, induces sleep.

Valuable Time Spent in Sleep

It is surprising to note that a person sleeps for about one third of his life. The human organism is designed to function better with regular periods of sleep, and thus we make allowance in each day for satisfying this natural desire. The person who sleeps eight hours out of every twenty-four hours, sleeps 240 hours per month. Means the person is in sleep for ten complete days in a month. This amounts to four months per year, and in an average lifetime, approximately twenty-three years. At first one is tempted to question whether so much sleep is needed. It is logical to ask. Is it feasible to spend less time in sleep and thus have more hours for productive activities? Some famous persons like Thomas Edison, Napoleon advocate less time in sleeping. They could get their full productivity with lesser time sleeping. They were genius. However, were they healthy with lesser sleeping hours, is a million-dollar question to which we don’t have an answer as of date. However, for a normal individual it’s impossible to mimic their sleep pattern.

When we are debating the time of sleep what if I ask you to work 24 X 7 X 365? Are you ready? No, not at all. However, on the other hand human brain, heart, lungs are working 24 X 7 X 365. Have you ever experienced you are awake, and your heart is sleeping, or your lungs are taking a nap? Which is not possible, and you will not stay alive, right? Then when do they take rest? They take rest when you are in deep sleep. They do not stop but the brain activity is at the least minimum during deep sleep periods. Hence for heart, lungs and brain sleep is a rejuvenating phase. Reducing the sleeping time reduces your productivity.

You may have heard a recent news about a staff member of renown company did not sleep for seven days to achieve the target set by his boss. He could achieve the target. However, while making the presentation to his boss after staying awake for 7 days, he succumbed to massive heart attack. We also know a Mumbai based cardiac surgeon who use to perform open heart surgeries known as Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG) by compromising his sleep had untimely death due to massive heart attack. Which time and again have proved scientifically that sleep is important rejuvenating rest phase for heart, lung, and brain. Often those students who complete studies staying awake make silly mistakes as they fail to concentrate while they are solving critical sums. Hence it is recommended that you plan your work hours and align it right on day one of being allocated a target to achieve, rather than slogging sleeplessly and then suffering from consequences of sleepless slogging. For men and women in their prime of life, seven to eight-hours sleep is highly recommended. It is a matter of individualization as to how much sleep an individual is required to recharge his heart-lung machine and the brain, in order to have highest productivity of the kind of work they are performing.

Activity of Brain during NREM & REM Sleep

NREM = Non-Rapid Eyeballs Moving / Deep Sleep | REM = Rapid Eyeballs Moving / Shallow Sleep

Image Courtesy: How Sleep Works

Physiology of Sleep

As we discussed in the article Human / Biological Clock = Circadian Rhythm ( by 9 pm the sleep hormone – Melatonin secretion starts. In order to have healthy quantities of the hormone secreted one must be in the low light or in the dark and should not get exposed to light. Thus, it is advisable to stop use of screens like mobile, tab, laptop, TV as such an exposure gives a false impression to brain and reduces production of Melatonin. Melatonin helps to induce good sleep as well it works to counter stress and as an antioxidant. Hence it is advisable not to get exposed to strong light after 9 pm so that the sleep quality is best. We must retire to bed at the earliest to experience quality sleep. When we sleep, we do not realize phases of sleep. Sleep is divided into three broad stages of NREM = Non-Rapid Eyeballs Moving / Deep Sleep and REM = Rapid Eyeballs Moving / Shallow Sleep, out of which NREM sleep is further sub-divided into four stages.

These cycles or sleep stages start as soon as we sleep. It follows a typical sleep pattern starting from 30 minutes of REM sleep followed by 90 minutes of NREM or Deep Sleep. We usually experience the dreams in the REM sleep phase. Whenever the bladder is full one starts getting dreams of searching for a washroom. Such dreams and sensation of bladder being full is commonly experienced in REM sleep. It is recommended that you wake up and visit washroom to empty the bladder with eyes closed to continue with sound sleep. If your attention is diverted to something else when you have woken up to empty the bladder, it is likely that you may break the sleep cycle.

Often you may have noticed that there were times where you woke up exactly on the alarm buzz. When you woke up precisely at the sound of buzzing alarm you experience sharp grasping power and completely refreshed feeling. On the contrary there are times when you did not get up despite of the alarm buzzing. In that case if at all you were woken up by one of your family members, you may have experienced heaviness of the head, unrefreshed feeling.  Have you ever thought of reasons behind these experiences? The scientific reason behind such experience is that whenever your alarm was set on a time that lies in deep sleep stage, since you were in deep sleep you could not wake up despite of the buzzing alarm. On the other hand, when you woke up with the buzzing alarm the alarm time was set in your REM sleep stage and since you were in the shallow sleep stage you could easily wake up refreshed. With that when ever you intend to wake up on a specified time see to it that you set up alarm and wake up during the REM sleep stage and not during the NREM or deep sleep stage. Considering this action point I am sharing few tools to identify REM / NREM stages of sleep. Following is the sleep stage classification:


REM Sleep

NREM Sleep

Light-to-Deep Sleep

Deep Sleep

Stage 1

Stage 2

Stage 3

Stage 4

Eyes open, responsive to external stimuli, can hold intelligible conversation

Brain waves similar to waking. Most vivid dreams happen in this stage. If awakened, person will claim was never asleep. Body does not move.

Transition between REM and NREM sleep. 

Main body of light sleep.  Memory consolidation.  Synaptic pruning.

Slow waves on EEG readings.

16 to 18 hours per day

90 to 120 min/night

4 to 7 hours per night

REM Sleep – Rapid Eyeball Movement Sleep

NREM Sleep – Non-Rapid Eyeball Movement Sleep / Deep Sleep

Considering we sleep at 10 pm following is the diagrammatic representation of the phases of sleep which medically is termed as Hypnogram.  

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia


Sleep Pattern

Sleep ‘Chip’ / Sleep ‘Bank’

You may ask me a question that I have been recommending 7 to 9 hours of sleep, why do babies sleep for a longer duration? Very good question. Depending on the age of the person the sleep requirements do vary. Following chart lists age-wise sleep requirements:

Age and condition

Sleep Needs

Newborns (0–3 months)

14 to 17 hours

Infants (4–11 months)

12 to 15 hours

Toddlers (1–2 years)

11 to 14 hours

Preschoolers (3–4 years)

10 to 13 hours

School-age children (5–12 years)

9 to 11 hours

Teenagers (13–17 years)

8 to 10 hours

Adults (18–64 years)

7 to 9 hours

Older Adults (65 years and over)

7 to 8 hours

During sleep time the cells undergo rejuvenating changes and grows further. Hence during younger age when the growth rate is more, the number of sleep hours are more. Once you attain adult age and the development / growth is complete the number of sleep hours are restricted to 7 to 9 hours. Equivalent to growth the time required for optimum sleep is dependent on an individual’s throughout the day activity too. During younger age the activity is more, hence the optimum sleep hours required are more. On the contrary after 60 years of age, an individual retires from active working. The activity slows down. In that age though we have listed sleep requirement to 7 to 8 hours, as the activity is reduced, shorter sleep hours are refreshing as well. Which works as optimum sleep duration for that age.

Similarly, when an individual suffers from a debilitating disease the sleep hour requirement increases. You may have experienced it.

What if the person can sustain sleeplessness? The person may have physical capabilities to stay awake for more time, however, sleep is a homeostatic process. Our body’s memory ‘chip’ / ‘bank’ keeps record of how much time the person has slept. If the individual stays awake for a longer period, sleep ‘debt’ is recorded in the memory and it needs to be compensated. If the person does not sleep for a specified time, his brain, heart, lungs get exhausted which in turn leads to lifestyle diseases. In extreme conditions it may lead to death due to sudden heart failure as we have experienced in the example of few individuals specified earlier in this article.  Once you cross a certain time period of being awake you experience intense sleepiness and it makes you difficult to stay awake and you tend to sleep wherever you are or whichever activity you are carrying out. Typically, after having meals the sleep debt takes a toll over the individual and you feel tremendously sleepy. Following are the penalties you pay for lack of sleep:


  1. Myofibrositis: generalised body ache and unrefreshed feeling is experienced through out the day when a person does not get quality sleep.
  2. Lack of alertness: Forgetfulness, greater tendency to make mistakes, low grades in exams, traffic accidents.
  3. Irritability: intolerance of contradiction.
  4. Pessimism: Negative thinking about normal situations.
  5. Loss of Creative ability: Powers of imagination become dull and the mind is too tired to coin in new ideas.
  6. Lack of Drive: Indifference to work or many other things, procrastination.
  7. Lowered Resistance to Diseases: Lack of sleep reduces immunity, drastically increasing susceptibility to infections, typically such individuals are prone to viral infections.

 Sleeplessness / Insomnia

Certain individual experiences sleeplessness due to a cause such as hormonal derangement. Few experience it without any specific reasons which is medically labelled as Idiopathic Sleeplessness. It is advisable that if you are experiencing sleepless nights you should see a qualified medical professional to rule out primary causes in the form of diseases. Homoeopathic Management helps an individual to get cured of sleeplessness / insomnia completely without feeling sleepy at odd times. If the person has sleeplessness secondary to a disease such as hormonal imbalance, homoeopathic remedies cure the disease. However, if the sleeplessness is of idiopathic origin still the homoeopathic treatment help to establish normal sleeping cycle. Often, we experience that a new-born is awake the whole night and sleeps the whole day. If not for the new-born but for the parents, it becomes cumbersome to handle this sleep cycle. As they are awake at night to pacify the new-born and working in offices during the day. In such situations homoeopathic treatment to the new-born restores normal sleeping cycle.

Before one resorts to medicines one can make following changes in their lifestyle in order to combat sleeplessness:

  1. Avoid daytime naps – one may take rest in the afternoon if possible, however, should stay stark awake as small nap of few minutes has potential to alter the quality of night-time sleep.
  2. Follow a daily exercise regime – often lack of activity does not exhaust individual giving rise to sleeplessness. Hence one must challenge their own physical endurance every day which will yield quality sleep at night-time.
  3. Undertake Recreation Activities – while undertaking many activities you tend to forget the stress you have, such activities keep negative thoughts away and induce healthy sleeping cycles.
  4. Maintain Fixed Sleeping Pattern – retire at the same time each night and wake up at same time. Even though there is a holiday, you should follow your sleeping pattern.
  5. Screen Time Restrictions – avoid watching any screens after 9 pm as the melatonin secretion starts after 9 pm which is mainly responsible to induce sleep. Use of screens after 9 pm sends a false signal to brain in turn reducing Melatonin secretion.
  6. Sleeping ‘Environment’ – see to it that your bedroom has complete darkness and not even a mellow light, along with complete silence in your bedroom.



  1. Shryock. You and Your Health (Revised Edition) Volume 1 – P:426-431 (1979)
  2. Neuroscience of Sleep – (accessed on 29-Mar-2020)
  3. Thompson. REM Sleep – Types and Stages of Sleep – How Sleep Works – (accessed on 29-Mar-2020)

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© March 2020, Dr. Ashutosh Pradhan – Consulting Homoeopath – Wellbiance Quality of Living Clinic