Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ahhhhhhh sleep--how much do I love thee!

I was recently at an Austin Area Strategic HR Forum meeting, where we had a speaker who mentioned that getting less than 7-8 hours of sleep per night will affect your IQ.  She said the first thing that you should tell an employee whose productivity has dropped is to get more sleep!

So, this prompted me to do a little more research of my own.  Personally, I have come to really LOVE and cherish my sleep.  I think this feeling has grown since the birth of Luke--probably due to the fact that I got none shortly after he was born.  There were days during those first couple of months after he was born that I felt like a zombie.  What was really scary were the days that, although they were filled with lots of activity, at the end of the day I could not even tell Drew what had occurred.  The whole day was a blur.  So, when Luke began sleeping through the night, I began to appreciate sleep significantly more than I had prior to his birth.  I began to crave it throughout my day.  I know there HAS to be something to this research.

Here are some of the interesting facts that I have found.  (info. from

Just as exercise and nutrition are essential for optimal health and happiness, so is sleep. The quality of your sleep directly affects the quality of your waking life, including your mental sharpness, productivity, emotional balance, creativity, physical vitality, and even your weight. Lack of sleep affects your judgment, coordination, and reaction times. In fact, sleep deprivation can affect you just as much as being drunk.  No other activity delivers so many benefits with so little effort as sleep!

Understanding sleep

Sleep isn’t merely a time when your body and brain shut off. While you rest, your brain stays busy, overseeing a wide variety of biological maintenance tasks that keep you running in top condition and prepare you for the day ahead. Without enough hours of restorative sleep, you’re like a car in need of an oil change. You won’t be able to work, learn, create, and communicate at a level even close to your true potential. Regularly skimp on “service” and you’re headed for a major mental and physical breakdown.

The good news is that you don’t have to choose between health and productivity. As you start getting the sleep you need, your energy and efficiency will go up. In fact, you’re likely to find that you actually get more done during the day than when you were skimping on shuteye.
How many hours of sleep do you need?

Average Sleep Needs
Age Hours
Newborns (0-2 months) 12 - 18
Infants (3 months to 1 year) 14 - 15
Toddlers (1 to 3 years) 12 - 14
Preschoolers (3 to 5 years) 11 - 13
School-aged children (5 to 12 years) 10 - 11
Teens and preteens (12 to 18 years) 8.5 - 10
Adults (18+) 7.5 - 9

According to the National Institutes of Health, the average adult sleeps less than 7 hours per night. In today’s fast-paced society, 6 or 7 hours of sleep may sound pretty good. In reality, it’s a recipe for chronic sleep deprivation.
While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, most healthy adults need between 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. Children and teens need even more (see chart at left). And despite the notion that sleep needs decrease with age, older people still need at least 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep. Since older adults often have trouble sleeping this long at night, daytime naps can  help fill in the gap.

In my research, I also found a new study undertaken by researchers in the UK and Italy that suggested that an abnormal sleeping pattern may result in an increased risk of premature death. ( The research took data from studies across Europe, the US and Asia over 25 years, covering more than a million people and over 100,000 deaths. There were two key findings from the research as reported by The Guardian.
It found that those who generally slept for less than six hours a night were 12% more likely to experience a premature death over a period of 25 years than those who consistently got six to eight hours’ sleep.
It also concluded that those who consistently sleep more than nine hours a night can be more likely to die early. Oversleeping itself is not seen as a risk but as a potential indicator of underlying ailments.
So, the moral of the story?  I won't bore you with any more of the many research studies that demonstrate the importance of sleep.  However, I would ask that you share this information with your loved ones who do not get enough sleep! It is critical for their success in their jobs, for their health/survival, and for them to be able to spend quality time with their families.  I know that I am going to make sure I get enough!

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