From Ronald Hoffman, MD
March is Sleep Awareness Month, with National Sleep Week coming up on the 12th. In commemoration, I’ll be spending the next two issues focusing on the impacts of sleep on our health. This week, I’m paying particular attention to the impacts of getting too little sleep—some of which you may not be aware of.
“Sleep is the single most effective thing you can do to reset the health of your brain and body,” according to Matthew Walker, SleepFoundation.org’s Scientific Advisor and director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley. He says that a “catastrophic” lack of sleep in modern society is killing us; sleep deprivation affects “every aspect of our biology” and is widespread in Western countries.
A poll of 2000 adults suggests that the pandemic has worsened America’s sleep problems. Disrupted schedules prompted by remote work have spawned “Coronasomnia”. Six in ten Americans say their sleep routine during quarantine has them feeling more exhausted than they’ve ever felt in their lives; Unhealthy binging on increasingly-pervasive online entertainment and social media has compounded sleep deficits.
A recent study indicates that getting good sleep could add years to your life. Science Daily reports:
“Getting good sleep can play a role in supporting your heart and overall health—and maybe even how long you live—according to new research being presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session Together With the World Congress of Cardiology. The study found that young people who have more beneficial sleep habits are incrementally less likely to die early. Moreover, the data suggest that about 8% of deaths from any cause could be attributed to poor sleep patterns.”
Optimal sleep factors included: 1) ideal sleep duration of seven to eight hours a night; 2) difficulty falling asleep no more than two times a week; 3) trouble staying asleep no more than two times a week; 4) not using any sleep medication; and 5) feeling well rested after waking up at least five days a week.
“Among men and women who reported having all five quality sleep measures (a score of five), life expectancy was 4.7 years greater for men and 2.4 years greater for women compared with those who had none or only one of the five favorable elements of low-risk sleep.”