Back in the mid-1990s I became very interested in how fatigue and sleep deprivation impacts human performance. There was a good amount of research tucked away in some obscure journals and on the shelves of almost unknown institutes. Yet what I found was very intriguing and startling.
At the time media coverage of this topic was almost nonexistent. Only if a trucker fell asleep while driving did the story hit the news wire. A majority of the population believed that sleep was really an option.
Today, the public perception of the value of sleep is still weak, even though now there is a huge body of evidence pointing to the importance of regular, adequate sleep. Only about one in ten people say sleep is important to good health. Nearly one-third of Americans get less than six hours of sleep each night.
Evidence is strong that short-sleep habits deprive us of the capacity to excel because optimal learning (a valuable quality in every profession) requires regular, good sleep.
If you are still in doubt, here is a brief summary of why sleep is so important to your success in life, to say nothing about its impact on good physical health.
Struggling with solving a problem? Try sleeping on it! While you sleep your brain strengthens important associations and weakens those less relevant.
Sleep improves your ability to remember things. During the REM phase of sleep you consolidate recently learned information, helping you remember it longer.
Do you need to express yourself well? Sleep is essential for conveying ideas with the right words.
Lack of sleep impairs your ability to be flexible in decision making.
Sleep gives your body rest. Our busy schedules along with the increasing complexities of living weary us. A myriad of chemical and electrical connections reset set themselves at night, better equipping us for the challenges of the next day.
A tired person is much more likely to experience health problems such as obesity, heart-disease, the common cold and flu to name just a few.
But can’t you mask physical sleepiness with a cup of coffee or an energy drink? Yes, but only for a relatively short time. Using these substances is like whipping a tired horse. It may go a little farther, but at the end of the day it is even more exhausted.
Perhaps you believe when you die you will catch up on your sleep, but in the meantime you can be fully productive on 5-6 hours of sleep? You need to get over that false notion. If you really want to lead the world (at least your universe) with all your faculties intact go to bed early tonight to be well rested!
Fred Hardinge, DrPH, RD
Source: PositiveChoices.com. Used with permission.