Jan 21, 2008

Sleep: for shiftworkers, and everyone else, there's no substitute

Sleep is obviously a critically important topic for shiftworkers. But, it's equally important for the rest of the world too. That's why there's so much written about sleep -- how to get young children to sleep, the effects of teens' sleep on academic performance, the delights of an afternoon nap, or whatever. So, it's no wonder there's so much written about sleep.

The important thing to remember is that you need sleep. Everyone does. And most people need 7 or 8 hours of a sleep in a 24-hour period. While there are some people that can live on 4-5 hours of sleep, there are VERY few such people. Many who think they sleep that little actually add sleep at other times of the day, dozing during meetings and taking other intentional or unintentional naps.

And, you cannot train yourself to need less sleep.

You may get used to operating in an impaired state but your need for sleep remains the same. If you don't get the sleep you need you reduce your alertness, impairing your safety and your performance. There is also substantial evidence that you impair your learning ability, your cognitive abilities, and your longterm health.

And, beyond a very limited range you can never make up lost sleep. The person who holds the record for continuous wakefulness stayed awake more than 10 days. Afterwards, he slept for 14 hours. That's it. The other sleep lost was never recovered. So the learning and health impacts cannot be reversed. You've got to consistently get the sleep you need to perform your best in the short term and to maintain your health in the long term. It's that simple.

Over the weekend I read yet another article about sleep. It's nothing groundbreaking but it provides a very good overview. In Saturday's edition of The Cleveland Daily Banner (Cleveland, Ohio, USA) Dr. Rob Coombs wrote a short article on sleep that provides a good, basic overview of sleep -- the 4 sleep stages, the need for sleep, what makes us sleep, etc. You might want to check out Speaking on Sleep.

We've covered sleep and sleep tips many times on this blog, and I know we will continue to do so frequently. Some recent articles include:
Sleep well,


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