Scene of the accident - Tema Toll booth

I have feedback. LinkedIn says my articles are between 10 and 13-minute read.

Besides, persons in my close circles have joined Baby Tei in the ‘it’s too long’ refrain. I tried to bargain with the sub headings I put in, but ‘stiiiiillll, ejaaa’.

As a communications person, I live on feedback, so I cherish it like my life. I hereby solemnly pledge that I will not sleep on this issue.

Sleep is my issue for discussion today.  Yes. That death look-alike- ‘wo nnim owuoaa hw3 nna’ (if you don’t know how it feels to be dead, sleep should give a clue).

Sleep as a bad thing to do

I was inspired by some quotations related to work, that I came across when I started working.

Three that come to mind readily are; “Life is what you make it”, “hard work does not break bones” and “the height of great men were not achieved by sudden flight, but they, while their companions were asleep, were climbing upward through the night.”Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The last one, I found so inspiring that I framed and displayed in my living room. Lately, I have realised that inspiring as this quote is, it denigrates sleep, much to my discomfort. I am thinking of pulling it down.

Another one that really deals a huge blow to sleep is this, “There is poverty in bed. You sleep like the dead in the cemetery and expect to make money like the rich.”

Also, Proverbs 20:13 does not help matters, “do not love sleep, or you will become poor, open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with food.”

From Eric’s Diary: The restorative Power of Sleep and the accident causing Potential of Same

Among Gas, there are some statements that connote sleep is only meant for the rich.  Especially so, when one is found taking a nap in the afternoon or delays in getting out of bed, in the morning.

The greeting you receive is, ‘eii ohe ej)bo n3k3?’- you are really comfortable.

Joy News TV shows a documentary called Ghana’s Greats. This is available on YouTube. It features Ghanaians who have contributed in diverse ways towards the development of our dear nation.

The latest to be featured is rich and famous Sir Sam Jonah. Sorry I forgot. He does not want to be described by his wealth.

In the documentary, Sir Jonah made a statement attributable to his father, which suggests that sleep is such a bad thing.

“I had to wake up at 5:00am every day because my father believes it is unproductive to sleep after 5:00am. So he will come over and sprinkle cold water from the fridge, and that was a rude awakening, so to speak.”

This is very familiar because my father, Godfrey Ayettey Mensah, did similarly. He hit your door so hard to jolt you out of bed. The remark that follows, he rendered in twi- ‘mad) amamu edi’- I have worked for you to enjoy.

If a Ga father speaks Twi to his Ga children, on a particular issue, then it tells you how much the matter means to him.

The restorative power of sleep

Contrary to what seems to be a popular opinion against sleep, as alluded to above, my reading of the subject reveals that sleep is critical to the sustenance of life. You joke with it and you are in for trouble.

Sleep is explained as a condition of the body and mind that typically recurs for several hours every night. During sleep, the nervous system is said to be relatively inactive, the eyes close, the postural muscles relax and consciousness is essentially suspended.

I also learnt that sleep allows for the body to repair and restore cellular components necessary for biological functions that become depleted when one is awake. Sleep is critical in healing and repair of one’s heart and blood vessels, the literature says.

Continued sleep deficiency is therefore linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke and eventually death.

This must be the reason why hitherto, these ailments were described as ‘rich man’s disease’. You make the money and get them as bonus for cheating nature. Hmm!

Types of sleep

There are 2types of sleep. These are Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM).

REM sleep, is described as a paradoxical state of sleep when the brain appears to be awake but the individual is in deep sleep. This type of sleep it not sweet at all. You wake up on hearing the slightest noise, plus you don’t feel rested.

During NREM sleep however, the brain appears to be calm. That’s the kind of sleep that when you experience, you wake up feeling really good.

You know the kind of sleep that if anyone wakes you from, you feel like telling him/her to take the lead to hell? Yes, that one. The type that makes you stretch, stretch and stretch and not able to get out of bed, and when you finally stand up, you get a final stretch, yeah.

It is the type of sleep that you can enjoy even in the noisiest night club with loud speakers blaring at maximum volume levels, ‘eh3333!, that’s it.

You don’t know that sleep? The kind that armed robbers could enter and ransack your room without you hearing anything? ‘3nuaaa!’.

Those of you who pride yourselves in sleeping for only three hours, and claiming proudly that ‘but I am fine’, this one is for you:

Young Adult18-25 years7-9 hours
Adult26-64 years7-9 hours
Older Adult65 years or older7-8 hours

Benefits of Sleep

Actually, the benefits of getting a full night’s sleep are so enormous. Here are few:

  • Boosts your immune system
  • Helps prevent weight gain
  • Strengthens your heart
  • Increases productivity
  • Increases performance
  • Improves memory

The accident causing potential of sleep

According to a study by Washington based, AAA Foundation, titled “Acute Sleep Deprivation and Risk of Motor Vehicle Crash Involvement”, one is twice as likely to get involved in a car accident when, “you’re cruising on six to seven hours of sleep compared to if you get a full eight hours.”

I don’t live in Washington but I can attest to this.

The World Health Organisation defines health as, “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.” 

The true meaning of this definition, from what I have gathered, is that one could be certified as disease-free yet could be unwell. That is to say, anyone who is sleep-starved, can logically be said, to be unhealthy.

Over time, I have come to the realisation that the human body is the greatest machine ever made. No wonder it is the handiwork of the master craftsman- God.

Indeed, I can state without fear of contradiction that most man-made machines strive to mimic the human body in terms of the operational systems- Cars, TV sets, computers etc.

From Eric’s Diary: The restorative Power of Sleep and the accident causing Potential of Same

Just imagine the wires, cables, chords and tubes in cars and computers and compare that with the arteries, nerves, veins and capillaries in the human body and you will see my drift. They even copied the colours.

From Eric’s Diary: The restorative Power of Sleep and the accident causing Potential of Same

So, like the computer, by way of sleep, the human system shuts down in order to prevent itself from being destroyed. If you prevent it from shutting down by itself, then there will be a forced shutdown- sleep, stroke or instant death.

What is reassuring though is that, at the onset of sleep one gets a signal through yawning. That’s to say, look for a place to lay your head. However, the tendency, is for one to brush this aside.

I have heard about antidotes such as drinking coffee, chewing cola and washing one’s face with cold water when sleep beckons. These notwithstanding, if your sleep arrears is too much to warrant ‘debt-cancellation’ through any of the above stated antidotes, automatic shutdown mode is activated. Believe me.

Sleeping is just being human

As I said in a previous article, I wonder how President Akufo- Addo copes with the stress of the office at age 77. Thus, when I see a photo, allegedly, of him sleeping on duty, I am inclined to believe that nature feels too cheated.

Hence, as and when it becomes necessary, he is shut down in his own interest, no matter the venue. If these are photo-shopped photos, then I rest my case.

The first time I saw those pictures, was during the 2020 election campaign. It really made an impact on the campaign. From my perspective. As expected, the NPP communications team went into the archives and brought out a sleeping President Mahama to equalise.

While they equalized, my suspicions were confirmed. More so, when I have also seen a ‘sleeping photo’ of the Minister for Food and Agriculture- head tilted to the back in NREM sleep mode- far away in slumber land.

And I really like it when during state functions such as the reading of the budget or State of the Nation Address or Independence Day celebration, the camera men zoom in on Parliamentarians and invited guests who are either dozing or fast asleep. That’s a clear sign of sleep deprivation.

In my church, there used to be this man who goes round nudging people out of their slumber, when he observed any swinging head. He is with the Lord now.

Against this background, it is easy to surmise that many motor traffic accidents in Ghana have resulted from sleeping drivers.

Personally, I have had near accidents due to sleep, on two separate occasions. First, was during my days at GIMPA, then, on the Odorkor-Kasoa road.

In the first instance, I was driving to lectures, obviously tired from the arduous routine of studying and working. I got the signal through yawning, but I ignored it by increasing the volume on the radio to keep me active.

The next thing I heard, was a loud enough to wake you up, tooting horn of an on-coming vehicle. Clearly, I had gone off momentarily and veered off into the driver’s lane and was about hitting him, head on.

In the second instance, I was driving home from work. When the yawning signal started, I parked, bought pure water from the street vendors, washed my face and continued. ‘Stiiiiiill’.

I increased the volume on the radio and started clapping and singing while driving. I did that for a while until once again, the loud honking of the driver whose lane I was encroaching, woke me up.

My graduated sleep strategy

After these incidents, I have adopted what I call the graduated sleep strategy. When I am driving and the yawning starts, I will fight it for a while. If it does not abate, I look for a fuel station and park at a safe distance and close my eyes for 10 minutes. It works like magic.

If this does not help, when I resume driving, plan B kicks in. I switch off the engine and close my eyes anytime the traffic light turns red. When I hear the impatient honking of the driver behind me, then I proceed. Once I do this twice, I am fine.

From the foregoing, I guess you will agree with me if a say, that the recent accident involving a tipper truck which rammed into and demolished the toll booth at the Tema end of the motorway, was caused by the Driver’s NREM-sleepy eyes.

Sometimes you see vehicles ‘parked’ in big open drains and you wonder how they drove there. That’s your answer right there. ‘3ntuwoaa da’- if it has not happened to you, then sleep.

From Eric’s Diary: The restorative Power of Sleep and the accident causing Potential of Same

In Ga we say, ‘w) tsii’- sleep is heavy (can switch you off completely).

It is therefore good advice to have enough of it every night to keep you healthy, powerful, and productive.

As for those who still subscribe to those inspirational quotes, I wish you good luck in your endeavours.

As for me and my house, we shall listen to sleep advice while working hard to make ends meet.

This is what I will use to replace the framed quote “adequate sleep, enough wealth to keep body and soul together.”

Do svidaniya- that’s good bye in Russian.

Let God Lead. Follow Him directly, not through any human.

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