Friday, February 20, 2015

Get more sleep!

Sometimes a trivial, transient personal experience can illuminate a greater truth.

This happened to me last week.  About 3 weeks ago I caught one of the many respiratory viruses going around this winter, and I had the usual 3 day acute illness followed by the usual long full recovery period.

For me, my "recovery" typically involves 2 or 3 weeks of yucky intermittent coughing episodes (and yes, I have been evaluated for asthma...).  This week, I noticed I was fatigued at work, which is unusual for me, and I realized it was due to the sleep disruption from the cough.  I could do my work, but my enthusiasm was limited, and I did not make much progress on discretionary projects.

After making an effort - involving appropriate over the counter drugs - one night to get an extra full night's sleep, I was like a new person the next day.  My feeling was confirmed by my family and co-workers who commented on my upbeat, zippy attitude.

Now let's get to the greater truth.

Many (most?) of us simply don't get enough sleep on a regular basis to either be productive or have a happy life. Even worse, we put ourselves at risk for poor health outcomes and bad work decisions.

Sleep has been in the news a lot in the last few years, and some of you are familiar with the empirical studies looking at the effects of long resident hours.  But there is much more evidence that supports the bad effects of too little sleep. The Economic Times posted a blog today that summarizes many of these.  One not mentioned in that post is the association between sleep deprivation and abrasive behavior on the part of bosses toward their staff.

Really, the problems of not-enough-sleep are pervasive.  A CDC report details prevalence data, and one of the objectives of Healthy People 2020 is to "Increase the proportion of adults who get sufficient sleep."

The National Sleep Foundation recently released (slightly) revised guidelines for the optimal amount of sleep based on age group; these are in line with the most recent NIH guidelines for adults. Take a look at these if you are unsure what you should be aiming for.

If you think your are doing fine with less than the recommended amount, pay attention to how you are faring on the daytime energy and enthusiasm scale - and maybe check with trusted co-workers or family members about your mood - to check your thinking.

Now, its time for bed...  good night!

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