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Picture of man dressed in a business suit sleeping on a sheet of paper at his deskA Wake-Up Call
By Dr. Winston Craig
Americans have accepted sleep deprivation as a new way of life. They consider sleep as an expendable luxury.  Such is the conclusion of a recent government report.  About 15 to 20% of adults regularly get less than 6 hours of sleep a night.  Sleep deprived people don’t feel as well; don’t function as well academically; and they have more accidents than people getting adequate sleep.

            With sleep deprivation one can also experience impaired memory, anxiety, and lowered immune defenses. The cumulative long-term effects of sleep loss have been associated with a wide range of deleterious health consequences including an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes obesity, depression. Heart attack, and stroke

             In a ten year study, persons who got 5 hours or less of sleep were more than twice as likely to develop hypertension as those who got 7 to 8 hours a night. Adults who reported 5 hours of sleep or less were 2.5 times more likely to have diabetes compared with those getting 7 to 8 hours per night. In the Nurses Health Study, 5 hours of sleep or less was associated with a 45% increase in risk of heart attack.

             In another study, persons who got less than 6 hours a night were 7.5 times more likely to be overweight. The hormone ghrelin, produced by the gastrointestinal track, stimulates appetite, while leptin, produced in fat cells, signals the brain when one is full. Sleep deprivation causes leptin levels to drop (so you don’t feel as satisfied after eating) while ghrelin levels rise, so you want to eat. Hence, sleep deficiency can set the stage for overeating.

 To improve your chances of a good night’s sleep, the National Sleep Foundation recommends the following 7 steps:

  1. Have a regular schedule for going to bed and waking up. Consistency is important. Sleeping in late on weekends can throw off your rhythm.
  2. Create a safe environment for sleep. A comfortable mattress and a dark, quiet room are essential. The ambient temperature should be not too cool or warm
  3. The bedroom should be designated sleep area, and not a work zone with a computer or TV available.
  4. Bed time should be approached in a relaxed mood.  Avoid achievement-oriented task, and lively discussions just prior to bed time. Light reading, soothing music, or a warm bath helps to relax you.
  5. Avoid caffeine-containing food and beverages. Such stimulants can keep you awake and affect the quality of your sleep
  6. Quit eating 3 to 4 hours before regular bedtime. A big meal late in the evening usually guarantees that you will not awaken refreshed and rejuvenated the next morning.
  7. Exercise or workout regularly. The work out should finish long before bedtime to enable you to wind down and prepare for sleep.

By Winston Craig, PhD
Andrews University

Books by Dr. Winston Craig