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Enter Sandman

Recently I’ve found myself eager to learn more about sleep.  Considering I am likely to spend at least 26 years of my life sleeping, I figured it might be worth the investment to do some research on this topic.  To gain a better understanding about sleep, I did a quick Google search of the best books about sleep and quickly decided to purchase two top-selling books: Why We Sleep and Sleep Smarter. Here are some quick thoughts that caught my attention: 

  • Sleep cycles typically last for 90 minutes and repeat throughout the night. So, six normal 90-minute sleep cycles would equal 9 total hours of sleep. Even if you get a full night's sleep, you can still wake up feeling groggy if your alarm goes off during the middle of one of your sleep cycles. To avoid feeling woozy when you wake, consider setting your alarm so that it goes off after 7.5 hours as opposed to 8 hours.

  • Artificial evening light - laptop screens, smartphones, and tablets - makes it considerably less likely that you'll be able to fall asleep at a reasonable time. Approximately 90 percent of American adults regularly use some form of portable electronic device sixty minutes or less before bedtime.

  • Fifty percent of Americans sleep with their phone next to their bed.  While some may maintain they need a phone by their side “in case of emergency,” it appears that phone notifications - once touted as revolutionary cell phone features - are actually starting to train our brains to be in a constant state of stress and fear

  • Caffeine has an average half-life of seven hours. Let's say you have a cup of coffee at 7:30pm.  This means by 1:30am, 50 percent of that caffeine is circulating throughout your body. No wonder so many nighttime caffeine drinkers find it difficult to fall back asleep! 

  • Both books suggest that a bedroom temperature of around 65 degrees is ideal. This surprised me, and would be far too chilly for my wife.  Most people choose a controlled bedroom temperature that is on the high side, between 70 and 72 degrees. You will always find it easier to fall asleep in a room that is too cold than too hot.

  • Vehicular accidents caused by drowsy driving exceed those caused by alcohol and drugs combined.  Furthermore, being awake for 20 hours straight makes the average driver perform as poorly as someone with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent.

  • Both books recommend that you should never lie awake in bed for a significant time period; rather, get out of bed and do something quiet and relaxing until the urge to sleep returns. If you find yourself awake after staying in bed for more than twenty minutes, get up and do some relaxing activities until you feel sleepy.

Here are a few interesting facts about how poor sleep can affect children and adolescents: 

  • We often believe teenagers are lazy because they like to go to bed late and sleep in late. However, due to naturally occurring biological processes, asking a teenager to go to bed at 10pm is equivalent of asking adults to go to sleep at 7:30pm.  Furthermore, asking a teenager to wake up at 7am is the equivalent of asking adults to wake up at 4:30am. 

  • More than 80 percent of public high schools in the US begin before 8:15am, with 50 percent starting before 7:20am.  This lack of sleep means that students are missing all-important REM sleep - the critical stage of sleep occurring in the final hours of slumber.  School districts shifting the start of school to later in the day have reported higher academic achievement and a significant reduction in morning traffic accidents.   

  • There appears to be a link between sleep deficiency and ADHD. Children with ADHD are irritable, distractible, and unfocused during the day - symptoms that are nearly identical to those caused by a lack of sleep.  Based on recent surveys, it is estimated that more than 50 percent of all children with an ADHD diagnosis actually have a sleep disorder.

In case you’re wondering, I would recommend Why We Sleep over Sleep Smarter.  Both are good, but the former did a better job of holding my attention and - in terms of writing quality - is one of the best books I've read.



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