News & Politics

Why You Should Get More Sleep

Our commenters discuss a recent article on the negative effects of sleep deprivation.

Everyone knows that getting enough sleep is important. But many people don’t realize just how bad -- for mind and body -- sleep deprivation really is.

In a piece published on AlterNet, Allison Ford runs through some of the short-term and longer-term effects of not getting adequate rest.

Ford writes, "Continued sleep deprivation can result in trouble concentrating, blurry vision, impaired judgment and even more severe mental effects."

But even less extreme sleep deprivation harms the immune system, releases stress hormone and impairs the brain’s ability to store information. In fact, some of the effects of not getting enough rest closely resemble being drunk.

In the long-term, sleepless nights put the body at a higher risk for obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Since few people can pull off getting the recommended hours of sleep on a regular basis, this story resonated with our readers. AlterNet’s commenters had a lot to say about the article, as did commenters on Digg.

teel brings up the important -- and scary -- point that one group especially affected by sleep deprivation is flight crews, as airlines increasingly overwork fatigued employees to cut costs:

You know that feeling when you're tossing and turning in bed, three hours until the alarm goes off, and you just can't fall asleep worrying that you may get laid off? Know the feeling of climbing out of bed fighting just to keep your eyes open? Almost missing a red light driving to work?

Yeah, imagine getting out of your car, going through security and then operating a 737 for the next 12 hours.

Feel safe?

Dr. Rick Lippin writes that all Americans should slow down and take care of their bodies:

One of the great American cultural "sicknesses" is workaholism and freneticism/multitasking, even in our private lives.

So my Rx:

"slow down -- you move too fast. You've got to make the morning last" -- Feelin Groovy -- Simon and Garfunkle

Cybershaman agrees:

Unfortunately the workaholic with a cast-iron constitution is the standard by which we are all judged nowadays. The inevitable result of a system that refers to us as a human "resource" rather than an actual human being. If you slow down, you are replaced. If you cannot keep up with the increased workload, even if it is due to a "disability," you are no longer "qualified" for the job and can be fired at will.

jparsons points to another reason Americans don’t get enough sleep: kids.

I haven't had a decent block of sleep since I was heavily pregnant with kid #1, who is now 4. Kid #2 is also a frequent waker.

And I know my capacities are heavily diminished.

"You said it!" writes chrish. "I've got bad news for you ... I didn't start sleeping soundly again until my youngest was about 17, and forget it when they are out at night with the car! I wish I had heeded "sleep while the baby is napping" advice."

lkagy notes our culture's unhealthy ideas about sleep:

We are conditioned to believe that sleep time is wasted time. If we just didn't need to sleep, we could get X number of more things done. But what if most of our "living" happened during the sleeping hours and that our waking time was an interruption of that quality time? How would that change our approach to life?

Hecate_magika also points to how important sleep is for body and soul:

Very interesting concept. And I think that when people are out of touch with their dreams, they are definitely out of touch with themselves and their true sense of purpose. This may be why the powers that be keep us sleep deprived. If we don't know who we are or what we really want from life, we become that much easier to control. Dreams align the conscious mind with the subconscious. There can be nothing more valuable than that process.

kindcam, a commenter over at Digg, takes a contrarian view of sleep:

Screw it, that extra time awake is worth the mild health risks. If you get two hours of sleep less per night every year you add the equivalent of one month of time awake, 30.4 days to be exact. Fuck sleep.

AlexVance also writes: You can sleep when you're dead

But ratbone disagrees, making the well-illustrated point:

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ... no duh ... zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Tana Ganeva is an assistant editor at AlterNet.