Without enough sleep, we all become tall two-year-olds. ~JoJo Jensen, Dirt Farmer Wisdom, 2002
Dr. Eve Van Cauter, a sleep researcher and professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, says Americans have got it all wrong. We take pride in how little sleep we get, as if getting 8 hours of sleep was for slackers. Oh how wrong we are!
Only 10% of us can get by on 5 hours a night. That's for the Bill Clintons & Martha Stewarts of the world. But then Dr. Van Cauter reminds us that Clinton had heart surgery in his 50s with no obvious risk factors.
The plain truth is, we all need 7 hours at the minimum, and 8 to 9 hours to really shine. Sleep is necessary to restore our bodies, regulate our hormones, consolidate learning, keep our immune system functioning, and keep us emotionally stable. It is not an option! Dr. David Dinges of the University of Pennsylvania, says if he put you in his sleep lab, and deprived you of sleep, it would only take a few days until you showed some serious impairments. But the strange thing is, some people think they're just fine. It's like a Catch-22, Dr. Dinges explains:
People (who have been deprived of sleep) often say, oh I'm good to go. And it is the disconnect between your ability to introspect your alertness and impairment and how impaired you actually are cognitively is why we think a lot people believe that they're doing just fine when if fact they're not...
Dr. William Dement, chief of Stanford University's Division of Sleep, describes some of the devasting consequences of all the sleep-deprived people walking among us. Aside from all the innocent victims of fatal truck accidents caused by sleep-deprived truck drivers, he reminds us of all the serious mistakes made at the hands of sleep-deprived workers. A biggie was someone who forgot to convert inches to centimeters in the $6 billion mistake in the Mars mission!
So, what can we look forward to if we actually go to sleep early and get those 8 hours? Besides actually feeling rested, in a good mood, more apt to lose weight, better concentration, patience and getting fewer colds? Dr. Dement may convince you with this:
We've actually been studying this very closely in recent years, that if you take any individual and have them get extra sleep, their performance improves. It's always like here's my personal best. I'm at my personal - well, it gets better (with the extra sleep). And that's a big surprise.
Dr. Dement is concerned that people feel they have too much to do to take the time for a good 8 hours, but yet they aren't knowledgeable enough about sleep to know that if they compromise the hours they get each night, their abilities to do what they have to do are severely decreased.
We were studying basketball players recently, and as you know, they have a personal best. I can shoot 7 out 10 foul shots, and that's my absolute best. They get extra sleep, it becomes 8 out of 10... People need to know that!
(so here it is folks)...the choice is going through life losing an hour of sleep at night, going through life as a zombie, or - giving up that one hour of being a zombie, for being wide awake, alert and at your peronal best all day long. And I think the main thing is, a lot of people just haven't experienced that since they were kids.
And Dr. Dement's parting words, the take home message:
So when we actually do our sleep debt reduction maneuvers, people say, oh my God, I haven't felt this great in years! I didn't realize - and they are motivated to maintain it- and maintain the schedule.
What helps me:
Knowing that we actually sleep in two phases. It's a myth that we sleep 8 solid hours. There are 2 phases of 4 hours each, with a semi-wakeful state in the middle. This is supposed to happen. When you wake up at 3 in the morning, resist the urge to get up, or look at the clock, or start thinking too much. You will fall back to sleep. Give it some time.
Wishing you all sweet dreams! Do you notice a difference when you get a good night's sleep? Do you need 8 hours to be at your best?