Sleep: THE Crucial Foundation for Good Health

Sleep for good health

Sleep is crucial for good health

One area where modern research has become clear is around sleep. There has been an explosion of literature in the field, but the bible sill remains William C. Dement’s Promise of Sleep (2010),

The important point is that the need for sleep for 95% of the population is 7-8 hours/24 hr, and the bell-curve variation is very narrow. There is 1 or 2%l percentage who can get away with 5 hrs or so without degradation of function.

However, the vast majority of people incur a “sleep debt” every night they get less than 8 hrs. This sleep debt is cumulative. Dement’s research showed that college students incurred such a sleep debt by their early 20’s that it took 5+ weeks to eliminate the sleep debt. This was done by being housed in a basement with no windows and no TV or digital screens for 14 hours a night! After 5 ½ weeks, they settled into the norm of 8 hrs.

If it took 5 ½ wks to correct sleep debt for 20 year-olds, imagine the sleep debt of most people in their 40’s or even older!

Even sleep debt incurred in a normal work week is enough to create severe disability: 1) reducing driving ability equivalent to drinking 2 drinks of hard liquor, 2) impairing ability to calculate or remember numbers and names, 3) grasp abstract concepts, etc. Reflexes, judgment, and even attention and focus are similarly impaired! Sound familiar?

Half of all fatal auto accidents are correlated with sleep debt; of course alcohol is another correlation. Both together are deadly!

Research also shows correlation of sleep debt with obesity, heart disease and cancer rates, depression and suicidal tendencies, and decline in immune function.

How does one know if they are sleep deprived? Of course, sleepiness during the day is a measure. People think being sleepy after lunch has to do with digestion; it more often is a measure of sleep debt.

Another misconception people have. Some are proud of the fact that they can fall asleep within minutes. The truth is opposite. With good sleep hygiene, normal fall-to-sleep time is 15-20 min. Those who take 5 to 10 minutes to fall asleep are usually moderately sleep deprived. Falling asleep in less than 5 minutes is a strong sign of severe sleep debt.

Think about this! Throughout millennia of evolution, sleep was the only choice from shortly after sundown to near dawn. Bodily cells, brain cells, even retinal cells all need rest to regain optimal function after daily activities. After the invention of electricity, light bulbs , and TV and digital screens, evolution simply cannot keep up. Our bodies are not getting the rejuvenating sleep that is needed.  The ultimate result is compromised health!


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