By Tim Sullivan
“Early to bed Early to rise makes a man healthy wealthy and wise!” Benjamin Franklin, 1735
Sleep and proper rest are two underappreciated aspects of wellness today. The fact that people increasingly try to fit more things into their day has led to decreased time devoted to sleep, an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. The ideal amount of sleep an adult person should get per night is between 7 and 8 hours. Less than 7 and more than 8 have negative results on your health.
Insufficient sleep creates a vicious cycle of diminishing wellness. A lack of sleep contributes to overeating, and has been shown to contribute to weight gain and obesity. Obesity contributes to fragmentation of sleep quality and conditions like sleep apnea. A cycle of poor sleep quality and increasing obesity is a recipe for poor attitude and performance both at work and in family life.
“The solution [to weight loss]is not as simple as eat less, move more, sleep more, however, an accumulating body of evidence suggests that sleeping habits should not be overlooked when prescribing a weight-reduction program to a patient with obesity. Sleep should be included as part of the lifestyle package that traditionally has focused on diet and physical activity.” Drs. Jean-Phillippe Chaput, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research
Institute, Ottawa, Ontario and Angelo Tremblay, Laval University, Québec, Quebec.
Not only does a lack of sleep contribute to poor attitude and attention at work, it affects a person’s ability to learn and master new skills. There are three stages of learning as defined by Dr. Robert Stickgold from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School: Acquisition, Consolidation, and Recall.
- Acquisition- is when a person initially starts learning a new skill or technique, where the brain is storing the information about this learned activity in its neurons.
- Consolidation- occurs over the subsequent hours or even days, when the brain reorganizes itself around the new activity to best integrate the new activity into memory so that the activity can be best duplicated.
- Recall- is when the learned activity is called upon from inside the brain and acted upon to perform the learned activity
Sleep is an important part of the Consolidation phase. During sleep, the brain strengthens and stabilizes what we learned, and integrates it with older information previously learned. This is the step where learned information goes from being memorized, to being part of your personality; relevant to you and your experience. For every hour that we are awake, it takes about a half hour to process the information from that hour. Without proper sleep to complete the consolidation phase, it takes longer to learn things, which affects students and workers alike!
There is tremendous data that suggests that when work schedules are decreased in certain industries, not only does safety improve, but efficiency and productivity go up as well.