Long term sleep loss is serious, as a study from Harvard Medical School aptly demonstrates. For five years, they studied individuals who slept less than five hours each night. These subjects had a “300 percent greater risk of hardened arteries.”
Dr. Stanley believes that losing even one, or more, hours of sleep over a long term increases a long list of serious illnesses, including obesity, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer, cognitive decline, heart disease and depression.
The long term effects of sleep deprivation are just beginning to be understood. Unfortunately, society at large, says Dr. Stanley, “views getting by on very little sleep as a badge of honor.” But, Dr. Guy Meadows, Clinical Director of the Sleep School, says the opposite is true. He opines that “sleep is the most natural performance enhancer known to mankind. It’s time we started treating it as such.” Read more here
Professional culture says tiredness is to be ignored. It says the need for sleep is a weakness to be overcome if success is to be achieved. Not just a physical weakness, but a weakness of personal character. No matter the level of maturity, those that seek to be enlightened and escape the slavery of being and living with fatigue need to own up.
In the physician culture, sleep specialist Dr. Breus shares that we don’t just deny our doctors actual sleep, we expect them to learn how to deny themselves the need to sleep. He further goes on to say that the public expect doctors to be impervious to fatigue, to remain somehow immune to the effects of sleep deprivation.
There are many professions where sleep deprivation is increasing year on year. Physicians and other medical professions frequently are not getting enough sleep or gaining the quality of sleep required to rejuvenate the body and mind each night. Not being educated in recognizing the symptoms of sleep deprivation and sleep disorders in oneself, those that are sleep deprived do not acknowledge that they could be so. Does this sound similar to an addiction of some other kind where there is a problem but one lives with the illusion that all is or will be fine. We can say that this is not the case, all is not fine and before we recognise the risk of sleep deprivation, it may be too far down for a speedy recovery.
The consequences of sleep deprivation among doctors are real and serious. Dr Breus states that:
- Surgical complications increase when attending surgeons had less than a six-hour window for sleep between their final evening procedure and their first procedure the following day, according to research.
- Extended-duration shifts among medical interns in one study were associated with significantly increased risk of errors. Interns who worked five or more extended-duration shifts a month reported 300 percent more preventable errors associated with fatigue that resulted in fatalities.
- Residents in this study were 22 percent more likely to commit medical errors when sleep deprived.
Our cultural disconnect between medicine and sleep is apparent. Try recognise that life can be lived and enjoyed at a different level if we are sleeping and eating optimally.
Each of us has to take personal responsibility to come to work prepared—not impaired. We need to keep in mind that being impaired by fatigue tends to be the norm for which we don’t always recognise when we it has shown up. The effects of fatigue can only be countered when we recognise what it is doing to us and take the appropriate action.
Some natural tips for a restful night without sleep aids:
1. Be in bed by 9:30 pm and lights out by 10:30 pm at the latest.
2. Don’t drink or eat anything after 7:30 pm so that your sleep is not disturbed by bathroom visits.
3. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed.
4. Eat foods rich in melatonin such as pineapple and banana
5. Make your bedroom a sanctuary with no television, computer or briefcase allowed.
6. Keep your bedroom dark to get a better, deeper sleep.
7. Don’t overheat your bedroom and open a window for fresh air if possible.
8. Relax for an hour or two before bed without work, computers or TV.
If you feel that you wish to improve your sleeping habits, inbox us and we can help improve your sleep via one of our medical sleep experts or centre based around the country.