By: Mitchell Kogan.
Dr. Dement, the professor of Sleep and Dreams, argues that the most important part of the class is sharing our knowledge that we gain through the 10-week class and share it with our community. Our final project is aimed at outreach, attempting to educate both students and adults about the effects of sleep and dreams. To achieve my goals, I have attempted to write a newspaper article on the effects of inadequate sleep and hope to share it with my community back home.
Remember that one time? When it was 2 AM and you were busy finishing (or starting) your homework or working on that project assigned last month that’s due tomorrow and you made a promise to yourself that this would never happen again? That you would go to bed early tomorrow and get a good night’s sleep?
And then tomorrow comes. You finished all your homework yesterday so today you’ll be able to go to bed early, right? But then your roommate turns on the Xbox and you end up playing FIFA into the late hours of the night, breaking the promise you made to yourself last night.
Who hasn’t had this problem? We’re a society made up of chronic short sleepers. While in 1910 Americans got nine hours of sleep a night, most are lucky to get six. There are few things worse than the inability to fall asleep at night and the incapability to wake up in the morning. Due to our own inability to maintain a healthy sleep schedule, we are the cause of our own early morning grogginess. Many feel as though the “8 hours of sleep a night” recommendation is and overrated. But what many do not know is that when an individual is deprived from sleep, that person is as impaired as a driver with a 0.08% blood alcohol content, enough to convict someone of a DUI in the US. Sleeping is as important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle as exercise and nutrition, and it’s important to educate our society the value of getting a good night’s sleep.
Sleep debt is the cumulative deficit of sleep that a person accumulates over a span of time. Though we are able to store our sleep until a critical point, we cannot restore our alertness. A large sleep debt has a tremendous effect on our bodies, potentially impairing characteristics such as mood, energy, performance, attentiveness, and simply our overall well-being.
One of the best ways to restore alertness from sleep debt is to nap. Yet most Americans perceive napping as a sign of weakness, something that suggests that you’re a kindergartner at heart and can’t keep up with the fast-paced lifestyle of today. What many forget to realize, however, is that some of our most prominent leaders were routine nappers in their heyday. One of the more well-known nappers, Winston Churchill, was famous for being a night owl and routinely napped for about 2 hours a day. As he says it best, “Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment.” Another celebrated napper, John F. Kennedy, often took 1-2 hour naps a day to revive himself.
Getting those few extra hours has also proven to enhance the performance of athletes on the field. At Stanford University, players on the Men’s Basketball Team were required to sleep at least 10 hours a night, substantially increasing not only their speed and strength on the court, but also their shot accuracy.
Many companies nowadays, having become believers in the need for naps, have introduced exclusive napping times. For example, Google recently offered napping pods to their workers, which combine a sleek design with comfort and a 20-minute timer to truly maximize worker efficiency. As Christopher Lindholst, co-founder of MetroNaps, claims, “Over the last few years, there’s been a lot of focus on exercise and nutrition, but adequate sleep is arguably the most important element of productivity.” Other companies, like Ben and Jerry’s, have labeled sleeping dens in their offices to help restore efficiency and productivity in their workers.
As with many things in life, there is, of course, some irony in what I write. While I ramble on about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, it’s 2 AM and I’m sitting in the dark of my room with a single lamp illuminating the keyboard. Sure, I feel like Superman right now, but I’m certain I will pay the consequences when I try to wake up for class in a few hours. Though my sleeping habits may not be optimal, they are actually improving.. As Dr. Rafael Pelayo says, “The need for sleep is biological. The way you sleep is learned.” And as a Stanford student in Dr. Dement’s “Sleep and Dreams” class right now, I can say that I’m definitely trying to learn.