Most of us are a bit cavalier about our nightly repose. We shouldn’t be. For most of us, skipping a few meals would be better especially in terms of safety. Missing sleep on a chronic basis can inflame the brain, cause mood disorders, impair our safety, and set us up for chronic illnesses.
Dr. Michael Howell in the journal Practical Neurology provides us with an informative quote from sleep expert Allan Rechtschaffen: “ If sleep doesn’t serve an absolutely vital function, it is the greatest mistake evolution ever made.” I think most brain specialists would give that one two thumbs up!
While sleep disturbances can be trivial and situational, chronic issues can be part of a pretty serious “slow emergency”. The biggest obstacle in addressing this enormous obstacle to good health and healthy aging is our bottomless lack of understanding of the vital importance of healthy sleep.
Dr. Howell’s article deals with doctors in training (residents) who hit a wall in their training. Most of the young physicians reached burnout, not because of doubt, the hours, mean teachers or hospital duty. It was the sleep deprivation! They just couldn’t stay focused, learn, remember or maintain normal dexterity. It doesn’t bode well in their field!
Not just doctors have been studies but also professional athletes. Elite professional sports organizations (no budget restraints here) have a huge stake in maintaining high performance. Their studies have shown sleep to be so important for performance that they have made enormous organizational transformations to insure that their “investments” are in top form. The NHL realigned their conferences to reduce sleep-robbing travel while MLB increased the length of the season to provide more rest and even started the Sunday game an hour earlier. The NBA also increased the season length (same number of games) but also prolonged the all-star break and began allowing two days rest between playoffs if the venue changed.
You may not be Maple Leaf material but, let’s face it, you are some kind of athlete. We all are athletes in our own way and have our own areas of expertise. Don’t let insomnia wreck your creativity, performance or predispose you to chronic illness. If you suffer from chronic sleeplessness, get help.
Getting help means you're getting serious.
David B. Sudderth, MD