What killed Ranjan Das and Lessons for Corporate India

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, collapsed 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 of stress.

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.

Ranjan Das Former CEO of SAP India

Some Excerpts:

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.

Ideal Sleep

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.

In conclusion:

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.

Also, many Indian IT professional working overseas provide support to the Indian operations by cutting their sleep hours and remaining awake for extended amount of work hours, also those who have just arrived on work visa gets in to race of impressing their superior by coming early and staying very late in the office, such work pattern not only brings a stress but also obesity, potential hair loss and weaker eye sight.

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.

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