With today’s demanding lifestyles, many people feel they must sacrifice a good night’s sleep in order to get everything done. After all, there are only 24 hours in the day; who can afford to spend a third or more of those sleeping?
People who suffer from sleep disorders, such as insomnia, undoubtedly understand the value of a good night’s sleep. But those of us who are always flirting with sleep deprivation may need a refresher course on the impact that adequate sleep and good sleep habits have on our health and well-being.
Wake Up to Good Sleep
As a society, we have yet to acknowledge the importance of sleep, even though fatigue is a major cause of traffic and industrial accidents. These accidents take their toll in billions of dollars in costs, thousands of deaths and millions of disabilities.
In his book, “Sleep Thieves,” Dr. Stanley Coren says intelligence, measured as I.Q., drops with each hour of sleep lost. The more sleep deprived you are, the lower your I.Q. So adequate sleep is crucial to keeping you functioning at peak performance levels.
It is not proven, but it appears that the immune system works better when you are asleep. This may be why part of grandma’s time-tested treatment for colds and flu is “get plenty of rest,” to better allow your immune system to fight the virus.
Adequate sleep may also help prevent disease. Have you ever noticed that the week after you pull an all-nighter, you invariably come down with a cold? It may be simply a matter of lack of sleep making your immune system operate less efficiently to protect you against disease.
How Much is Enough?
Dr. Coren argues that the human body needs at least nine, maybe 10 hours a night. But each of us is different. Some people may need only seven. While the old “eight hours a night” probably does not apply to everyone, it may be enough to keep you feeling rested and fend off sleep deprivation.
A Gallup survey done a few years back found that Americans sleep an average of 6.4 hours a night. Even using eight as a benchmark, most of us are racking up sleep debt at the rate of about 1.5 hours a day.
The long-term effects of such chronic sleep deprivation are unknown. But it is safe to say that you are likely to be healthier, more productive, have fewer accidents and generally feel better if you adjust your schedule to include a restful night’s sleep.