Hands In The Air: This Is A Sleep Up!

Dudes and dudettes need sleep.

I know this isn’t a big revelation or anything here, but it’s important that we establish this baseline. We do need sleep. And probably a lot more of it than we’re willing to give ourselves.

Research shows that most people require seven or eight hours of sleep to function optimally. Failing to get enough sleep night after night can compromise your health and may even shorten your life. From infancy to old age, the effects of inadequate sleep can profoundly affect memory, learning, creativity, productivity and emotional stability, as well as your physical health.

According to sleep specialists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, among others, a number of bodily systems are negatively affected by inadequate sleep: the heart, lungs and kidneys; appetite, metabolism and weight control; immune function and disease resistance; sensitivity to pain; reaction time; mood; and brain function.

See? I told you so. Not that I want to get all high and mighty here, dudes. Because, after all, I’m probably one of the worst offenders, let me tell you. I get up around 0645 every morning, or at least every weekday morning when I was working at Awesome Elementary School. Unfortunately, I rarely got to bed before midnight the night before. Add in time spent falling asleep and, there you go, I’m down in the 6.5-hour range.

And I know I need more than that.

When I started reading that list of organ systems that could be adversely affected by a lack of sleep in a Personal Health column by Jane E. Brody in The New York Times, I started feeling it all. Each and every single symptom. All at once. Dizzying, I tell you. Or was that one of the symptoms?

Poor sleep is also a risk factor for depression and substance abuse, especially among people with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Anne Germain, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh. People with PTSD tend to relive their trauma when they try to sleep, which keeps their brains in a heightened state of alertness.

Dr. Germain is studying what happens in the brains of sleeping veterans with PTSD in hopes of developing more effective treatments for them and for people with lesser degrees of stress that interfere with a good night’s sleep.

I’m pretty sure you don’t have to have PTSD to make horrible sleep a risk factor for substance abuse and depression. I can tell you, and I’m sure you know if you’ve ever slept as badly as I tend to do, I feel horrible the next day. And, when you consistently feel horrible, that’s a pretty good recipe for being depressed about your situation.

So what’s the solution?

Seriously? You had to ask?

It’s get more sleep. Even though that might be hard, it’s the best recommendation you can have for increasing your health and making you feel better.

Timothy H. Monk, who directs the Human Chronobiology Research Program at Western Psychiatric . . .  is finding that many are helped by standard behavioral treatments for insomnia, like maintaining a regular sleep schedule, avoiding late-in-day naps and caffeine, and reducing distractions from light, noise and pets.

See that? Don’t nap late in the day. Stay away from caffeine during the afternoon and sleep in a (metaphorical) cave, far from noise and pets.

Easy enough to say. Now we’ve just got to get it done.

See you dudes on the other side.

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