Raise Your Hand Head If You're Sleep Deprived

In today's Wall Street Journal, Melinda Beck writes that she goes to bed at around 2 a.m. and sets the alarm for 6:30 a.m., but hits the snooze button repeatedly."I'm a night owl," she claims. But when she talks to Dr. Christopher Drake, with the Henry Ford Sleep Disorders and Research Center in Detroit, he has a different take on it: He diagnoses her as sleep-deprived. "The human body needs approximately seven to eight hours of sleep a night to maintain optimal alert levels during the day," Dr. Drake says. And the kind of crap the good doctor expects one to do to get a good nights sleep? Keep lights as dim in the evening, give up caffeine after 6 p.m., cut out alcohol. Dr. Charles Czeisler, director of sleep medicine for Harvard Medical School says good sleep hygiene means "a cool, dark, quiet place to sleep, free of cellphones, BlackBerries, text messaging, instant messaging, iPods, TV, the Internet." In other words, if you want to sleep well, you need to give up your "life." And it's worse if you have a kid.

As most moms know, "A baby's primary caregiver loses up to 700 hours of sleep in the first year," reports Liz Szabo for USA Today. Sleep deprivation strains marriages and leads to memory loss and depression. (Maybe even something called "momnesia".) And a sleepy mother can put lives in danger if she gets behind the wheel.

But what if, like Ms. Beck, you've been sleep-deprived for decades? It's called chronic sleep deficit. Dr. Czeisler says if you've only been getting four or five hours of sleep a night, you build up the same level of dysfunction in one week as someone who's been awake for 24 hours. Sounds terrible, like being a zombie. Been there! But just like some people weren't meant to be ballerinas, is it possible that some people aren't cut out for the modern clock? The new statistics about Americans being sleepier than ever are frightening: 36% have nodded off or fallen asleep while driving; 32% were drowsy while driving at least one or two times a month; and 26% drive drowsy during the workday. How can we get more sleep? What evolutionary gain is there to getting up at the crack of dawn? Instead of forcing night owls to get up at 6 a.m., how about a workday that beings at noon? Why keep punishing night owls?

Learning to Live Like An Early Bird [WSJ]
Parents With Babies Need Time To Reset Inner Clock [USA Today]
Babies Can Cause 'Momnesia' [USA Today]
Americans Sleepier Than Ever [U.S. News & World Report]