Short on Shut-Eye

March 2, 2008 at 2:30 pm Leave a comment

Obesity… smoking… drinking & drugs… these are seen as national health problems. Lack of sleep? No big deal. The common refrain is, “I’ll sleep when I die.” Well, death – or at least serious health problems – may come sooner than we think because we’re not getting enough shut-eye.

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention four-state study on sleeping habits reports that, “with late-night TV watching, Internet surfing and other distractions, Americans are getting less and less sleep.”

“And all this sleeplessness can be a nightmare for your mental and physical health, CDC experts cautioned, calling sleep loss an under-recognized public health problem. Sleep experts say chronic sleep loss is associated with obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, cardiovascular disease, depression, cigarette smoking and excessive drinking.”

I can testify to the truth of the findings. I’ve blogged about how my urge to eat rises exponentially when I’m overtired. I’m aware of it, which means I can fight it off to an extent, but it’s still a struggle. I also notice that, after a good night’s rest, my mood improves. Sometimes the improvement is striking.

So why can’t we just shut off the TV, close the laptop, put down the book… and sleep? What’s driving us to stay awake?

For me, a generalized sense of urgency pervades my mind. It keeps thoughts of work and my “life plan” running through my mind at a fast pace, pushing me to research, review and strategize so that I’m ready to take action as soon possible the next day.

Just this week, I’ve started to talk myself through these cycles, remembering that I don’t have to solve every problem this minute. Sleep also gives the brain a chance to process information in a whole different way, so getting adequate rest will actually help me take care of what’s keeping me awake at night.

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Entry filed under: health, science, tips & techniques. Tags: , , .

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