This is National Sleep Awareness Week; the week where the media tells us what we all know already… we do not get enough sleep. How much sleep do you need? Supposedly at least 7 hours and at least 35% of us get less than that requirement. Additionally over five percent of drivers admit that within the last 30 days they have dosed off while driving. Just a guess here, but probably more than that don’t admit it or are not aware that they have dozed off. I remember a study I came across many years ago, (don’t have a link though), where video cameras were installed in cars and the researchers watched people as their heads dropped to their chests and then snapped back up. Most of these people when asked later if they had dozed off, said “no” and were very surprised when shown the video proof of their dozing.
I know I don’t always get enough sleep. Some nights I get 5 or 6 hours, other nights 8 or 9 but I am not sure what my average is. The consequences of getting less than 7-9 hours of sleep vary from person to person but one result that I find interesting is weight gain. Several studies have shown that, all other things being accounted for, less sleep means more pounds. That in itself is not new news, (see this less sleep makes you overweight article from 2004), but still losing sleep over your weight may be a vicious circle. In my case since I started in my current job about 3 years ago, I have gained at least 10 pounds. This job requires me to get up very early so 4 nights a week, at least, I definitely get much less than 7 hours of sleep. Rising at 5:30 a.m. means I would have to be asleep by 9:30 or 10:30 p.m. to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep. This never happens. My body rhythms are such that I am wide awake in the late evening. I need to be sick to have a chance of sleeping before 11:00 p.m.
In addition to how much time you spend sleeping, another important factor is how well you sleep. If you take quality of sleep into account, I bet most of us are sleep deprived. I know many senior citizens who complain they don’t sleep well. But, I remember reading once that people who are retired are actually one of the best rested groups in the U.S. This is as is should be and is probably because they do not have the time restraints they had when younger. If you can spend 9 hours in bed, even if you don’t sleep really well, you might still be getting your recommended 7+ hours per night.