The Power of Sleep

Are we sleep deprived?

When I was at the peak of my career, I used to brag that I did not need more than five hours of sleep each night. I take power naps at least couple of times a day to keep me fresh and alert. I also brag about my capacity to dose off anywhere at any time in any position – even standing!

If you are a workaholic then your sleep habit is no better. It is estimated that one in six adults report getting less than six hours of sleep nightly. Work related stress is one reason. But there are several other reasons as well. Too much caffeine, nicotine and alcohol does not help. And 24-hour cable TV, the Internet and email also take a toll on our sleep.

A report in the Globe and Mail says that nearly eight in 10 married couples say their partner has a sleep problem, like snoring, insomnia, or incessant tossing and turning. A quarter say sleep difficulties force their mate into separate sleeping quarters. More than 20 per cent say they’re too sleepy for sex.

What happens if you don’t get enough sleep?
According to a large British study released few days ago, people who do not get enough sleep are more than twice as likely to die of heart disease. Researchers said lack of sleep appeared to be linked to increased blood pressure. We know that increased blood pressure raises the risk of heart attacks and stroke.

Previous reports have linked too little sleep to impaired memory and thought processes, depression and decreased immune response. Sleep deficits result in poor work performance, driving accidents, relationship problems, and mood problems like anger and depression. Diabetes and obesity have also been linked with chronic sleep loss.

How much sleep do we need?

Infants usually require about 16-18 hours of sleep per day, while teenagers need about 9 hours per day on average. Most adults need about seven to eight hours of sleep per day. The British researchers say that consistently sleeping around seven hours per night is optimal for health. When we sleep, the body rests and restores its energy levels. Good sleep is essential for our physical and mental well-being. A good night’s sleep will help us cope with stress, solve problems, or recover from illness.

Also be aware that the quality of sleep we get is as important as the quantity. Each morning, after seven to eight hours of sleep we feel tired and not fresh then it is a sign of poor quality sleep. If this is a chronic problem then you may be suffering from a sleep disorder which requires investigation and treatment. Your doctor can help you by referring you to a sleep clinic.

Remember, good sleep is just as important for overall health as diet and exercise. So Dr. B, stop bragging and start sleeping. The magic number is – seven hours.

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