Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

March 9, 2014

ED VASICEK: Cutting back sleep has unhealthy side effects

Deficit can lead to dementia, deviant behavior

There are certain interests we all have in common. One of them is food, a subject that excites me since I love to cook and I love to eat! But another area we have in common is sleep. Sleep is a natural function necessary to good health and solid thinking, but it is not always given the respect it deserves.

New studies force us to reconsider how much we value sleep.

According to U.S. News and World Report, “The National Sleep Foundation’s ... poll ... shows that many kids aren’t getting enough sleep, and that late-night access to all these electronic devices sure isn’t helping. The foundation recommends 11 hours of sleep for kids ages 6 through 10 and 8.5 to 9.5 hours for kids ages 11 through 17, but the parents surveyed in the 2014 poll say their kids typically get less than those recommendations ... 72 percent of parents say their kids have at least one electronic device in their bedroom while sleeping, and it turns out that those kids typically get a half hour to an hour less sleep per night than their peers.” Even the best teachers cannot counter the effects of sleepy students!

This contempt for sleep is not merely the domain of teenagers. According to Accuweather.com, “... in 1910 the average American slept between nine and 11 hours each night. By 2001, the average American slept only six hours.

“Sleep deprivation is classified as a lack of sleep that affects a person’s performance when awake ... This sleep deficit can lead to memory impairment, poor job performance and higher rates of motor vehicle accidents ...”

Not only do good sleep habits help us perform better on the job, how we sleep affects how we control ourselves. We are more likely to lose our temper, overeat, or take unwise short cuts when we do not sleep well. According to Professor Christopher Barnes of the University of Washington, “A growing body of research developed by several of my colleagues and I indicates that self-control is replenished while you sleep. One of the reasons this works is that self-control requires blood glucose as a fuel, especially in the portion of the brain responsible for self-control (the pre-frontal cortex). And sleep has been linked to regenerating that glucose in the pre-frontal cortex.

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