We need sleep. Pure and simple. We feel terrific when we get it, we feel horrible when we don't. We all know that, but we still "make time" by reducing slumber. After all, things seem to be OK even when we aren't getting enough sleep. It doesn't seem to be that big of a deal. Or is it?
Research conducted by leading universities divided participants into three groups. One group got eight hours of sleep every night for 14 nights. The second group got six hours every night, and the third got four hours. Mental and physical performance tests were conducted every day during the two-week test period, and participants were questioned as to how they felt their performance was being affected by sleep loss.
- The effects from loss of sleep are cumulative, both mentally and physically. Cutting back to six hours of sleep per night for only two weeks leaves a person as impaired as someone who has not slept in 48 hours.
- We are not able to accurately self-evaluate after loss of sleep. In this impaired state (6 hours sleep per day for 14 days), a person will perceive herself to be functioning normally, believing that her body has adjusted to her new six-hour-per-night routine. She will be wrong. She will have the same level of impairment as if she was legally drunk.
In other words, only two hours per night less than the optimum eight-hour sleep produces significant loss of performance if continued over time. Given these findings, the only reasonable thing to do is to commit to eight hours of sleep per night.
After making such a commitment, one may wake up after six hours and be unable to get back to sleep. What should she do then? Harvard Medical recommends a midday nap.
"At any age, most adults need seven and a half to eight hours of sleep to function at their best. Since older people often have trouble attaining this much sleep at night, they frequently supplement nighttime sleep with daytime naps. This can be a successful strategy for accumulating sufficient total sleep over a 24-hour period. However, if you find that you need a nap, it’s best to take one midday nap, rather than several brief ones scattered throughout the day and evening.” — Harvard Medical School
There is no substitute for sleep. So sleep eight hours per night; make it a priority. If those eight hours can't be attained at night, take a nap midday.
Then wake up to your best self!
image: lifehacker, 2016 http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2015/09/25-horrible-things-that-happen-if-you-dont-get-enough-sleep/