Who Needs Sleep?

According to the National Sleep Foundation guidelines, adults need to sleep for 7-9 hours a night; so to answer the question above, we all need sleep. How much sleep probably depends on the individual though. Barack Obama was said to sleep only six hours a night, Bill Clinton as well; but they were presidents and I wouldn’t expect them to be hitting the snooze button. There was also Leonardo Da Vinci and Thomas Edison who are reported to have taken a series of naps throughout the day instead of going to bed which is known as polyphasic sleeping. On the other extreme there are those monophasic sleepers (ones who sleep in a single large chunk of time) who get more than 7 to 9 hours a night; like Albert Einstein was said to have slept at least ten hours a night. While there are recommendations and guidelines about how much sleep we should be getting, we all know how much we need in order to be functioning member of society come the morning.

I personally would love to go to bed around 9:00 at night and wake up just prior to 4:00 in the morning. That would give me 6 hours and change of sleep per night and time to work on things here before I need to get ready for work. Some nights I am successful at going to bed by nine and other nights I would rather stay up and watch television with my wife. On those nights, when it get to be past 10:00 or 11:00, I know I am in for a particularly rough morning and ensuing day. I decided to write about sleep because my son Brooks, who thankfully still naps everyday, did not take a nap this last Sunday. I was on daddy duty that afternoon and it was a rough one. Brooks was having a hard time listening to directions, was not playing with his toys in a manner they should be played with, and was generally pretty fussy. I knew he had missed his nap, but the detrimental consequences of that surprised me until I thought about how I act when I don’t get the sleep that I need. Let’s see; when I don’t get enough sleep I am generally irritated and annoyed with others, I struggle to pay attention to anyone or anything, and I would much rather throw my computer than use it for work purposes. When it came to Brooks on Sunday, I tried to remain calm and give him the attention he was craving and luckily we made it through the afternoon until Jillian came back home.

The National Sleep Foundation says the following about sleep deprivation, “In sleep medicine, sleep deprivation is defined based on sleep duration, which is the total amount of time a person spends asleep. In reality, though, being well-rested is about more than just how many hours you sleep. As a result, the terms sleep deficiency or sleep insufficiency are more frequently used to describe factors that reduce the quantity and/or quality of sleep and keep a person from waking up refreshed.” They go on to differentiate between acute sleep deprivation, which would be a reduction in sleep that spans a few days, versus chronic sleep deprivation which would be a diagnosable condition. Some symptoms of acute sleep deprivation would be “slowed thinking, reduced attention span, worsened memory, poor or risky decision-making, lack of energy and mood changes.” Sounds just like someone I know, no not Brooks; me, when I don’t get enough sleep. The symptoms for chronic sleep deprivation are much worse and anyone experiencing that should be seeking diagnosis and treatment options.

There is also the common myth that we can just catch up on our missed sleep on the weekends, I don’t know many parents of two year old’s who think this is a realistic plan, but even if they did the research shows that just one hour of missed sleep can take four days to recover from. So don’t miss out on sleep come Sunday night, cause you may not feel rested again until Thursday and that is going to make for an exhausting week. We could always try to get a cat nap in during the day if we didn’t get enough sleep the night before. I personally thoroughly enjoy afternoon naps in the recliner but they tend to last more like an hour and a half than the ten minutes I had planned, leaving me wide awake come bed time. Instead, what we should be doing is creating a sleep habit; go to bed at the same time every night, wake up at the same time every morning, limit caffeine intake in the evenings if that impacts your sleep, keep the room dark and cool and get a full night’s rest. This way you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.

It’s not just too little sleep that can be detrimental, but be careful about oversleeping too. In my experience I don’t do well when I get too much sleep either. I feel foggy, lethargic and generally sore from being in bed longer than normal. According to the sleep foundation oversleeping can lead to “excessive napping, daytime sleepiness and headaches.” So you got too much sleep and now your sleepier than you would have been had you got less sleep and woke up on time. In the end, only you know what your following day is going to be like and how much sleep your going to need in order to make that successful and productive. Prioritize that sleep, get yourself on a sleep schedule, don’t hit the snooze button and with these things you are more likely to be a pleasant and energized person the next day; and less likely to be like Brooks after his missed nap or me when I stayed up watching tv instead of counting sheep.

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