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Don’t scrimp on sleep
Sleep: It’s more important than you think
Almost all the things you need to do to get healthier take work . . . like exercising more and finding more nutritious food to eat. Finally, there is a way to improve your well-being that involves lying down!
Sleep. Most of us think of it as a luxury, or something we can scrimp on when necessary. This approach on the importance of sleep is hurting our health. Seventy million people suffer from chronic, severe sleep disorders in the United States and unhealthy sleep is linked with heart disease, depression, obesity, and lower life expectancy.
We still don’t know exactly how the brain produces sleep and wakefulness. For that matter, we don’t know why all species need sleep. Evolution may have favored sleep as a means of conserving energy and avoiding night’s dangers; as a way of restoring cellular function; or, as many studies now suggest, as a time to consolidate learning and memory.
We do know sleep is intimately connected with serious health problems. For instance, studies show that insomnia correlates with depression and mood disorders. Others suggest sleep deprivation increases overall mortality by 21 percent for women and 26 percent for men.
Knowing this, why not go to sleep a bit earlier tonight? Try not to think of sleep as a luxury. Instead, think of it as a way to “take a stand” for your health by lying down.
Did you know?
- We all have our own daily sleep requirement. Lost sleep accumulates as a larger and larger sleep debt, which can only be reduced by sleeping over and above your daily requirement for days or even weeks.
- A Stanford test of reaction times established that people who are tired because of disrupted sleep perform about as poorly as subjects who are legally drunk.
- About half the people who snore during sleep and feel tired during the day have sleep apnea.
- During REM sleep, the whole body is paralyzed. In “sleep paralysis”: the sleeper awakes but is briefly unable to move.
- At the onset of sleep, many of us experience a brief body jolt, known as a “hypnic jerk.”
“Sleep is one of the most important predictors of how long you will live — as important as whether you smoke, exercise, or have high blood pressure or cholesterol. . . . Unhealthy sleep remains America’s largest, deadliest, most costly, and least studied health problem.”
– William C. Dement, MD, PhD., director emeritus, Stanford Sleep Medicine and Lowell W. and Josephine Q. Berry professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.
Research and content for this article provided by the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences.