Thursday, January 17, 2013

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Have you ever stayed up all night?

I did in college when studying for an exam. Since then I’ve stayed up for sick kids, a third shift job, and to read a really good book. But the other night the house was quiet, the dog and cats were curled up somewhere and I started writing. 

The scene was firmly in my mind; the characters were talking and moving around so much my fingers had a hard time keeping up as they flew across the keyboard, naturally misspelling every word. But when the muse is with you, you keep going and don’t look back. Fixing is for later.

When I looked at the time, it was four a.m. I debated about just staying up, but decided to grab a couple of hours of sleep and began a normal day. I didn’t think it would be a problem.  I’d stayed up all night before. Right?


When I sat down to write that afternoon I found myself staring out the window, playing with the cat and cleaning out a desk drawer. I couldn’t seem to focus and hardly wrote a word.

Later that evening I was on my way to a critique meeting and stopped to get gas. I swiped my card at the pump and started to put the nozzle into my tank when the attendant hurried out to stop me from putting diesel fuel in my SUV. And there it was, right down the front of the pump, in giant letters--DIESEL.

When I stopped at a favorite coffee shop, I left my coffee on the counter. Drats! One of those days, I thought.

But I’d only had two and a half hours of sleep. I constantly hear about the benefits of sleep so I scrolled around on the internet.

1.    Sleep improves memory. The brain consolidates the memories it learned during the day through neural connections that are strengthened while we sleep. In addition to consolidating memories, the brain appears to reorganize and restructure them, which helps spur creativity.

2.    Sleep improves performance. A Stanford University study found that college football players who tried to sleep for ten hours a night for seven to eight weeks, improved their sprint times, were less tired during the day and had greater stamina. Similar studies with tennis players and swimmers had the same findings.

3.    Sleep reduces levels of stress. Less stress in turn results in lower blood pressure and also affects cholesterol levels.

4.    Sleep helps avoid accidents. Not enough sleep can be as big an impairment to driving ability as alcohol. It affects reaction time and decision making ability. Without sleep over worked neurons can no longer coordinate information and we lose the ability to access previously learned information. Judgment becomes impaired. Focus and attention drift making it more difficult to receive information.

5.    Sleep helps can increase emotional stability. Cells produce more protein while you’re sleeping. These protein molecules form building blocks for cells, allowing them to repair damage cause by stress, ultra-violet rays and other harmful exposure.

6.    Sleep keeps us healthy. In people who got less than six hours of sleep a night, a study shows that the C-Reactive Protein, which is associated with heart attacks is higher.

7.    Sleep helps us lose more weight. Dieters who are well rested lose more fat than those who are sleep deprived. They were also hungrier when they got less sleep.

One of my New Year’s Resolution’s is to lose weight, another is to get seven hours of sleep each night.  How much sleep do you get?


Tina Donahue said...

I love to sleep when it's deep and sound. I try to get at least 7 hours a night. Eight's my goal. Only then do I feel really refreshed.

Kathy Otten said...

Great goal,Tina! I sleep good when my husband isn't in bed-he snores and I never get that deep sleep. Last night I was awake all night coughing from what ever flu bug is going around. So much for New Year's resolutions. :(

jean hart stewart said...

Thanks,Kathy, I needed an excuse for the amount of sleep I need to be efficient. Not only efficient but bearable. I'm really dependent on getting enough z hours in.

Fiona McGier said...

I try to get 7-8 hours per night, but when I'm working both jobs all week, I'm only home for 9 hours out of the 24, so if I even turn on my computer to check e-mails, or talk to my family, or eat, that's sleep time I lose.

I've read about the sleep-weight loss connection. Sigh. Maybe someday I'll be able to sleep more. Hey, we can all have a goal, right? And I do get my best ideas for new books either during my dreams or while I'm falling asleep. Must be the creativity time for me.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Jean,
I was surprised to find so many benefits from sleep. It was hard to condense it all down. Sweet Dreams!

Kathy Otten said...

Your crazy weekend schedule sounds like mine. I do 40 hrs. in three days, plus an hour drive time each way. Taking the dog,showering etc... I'm lucky to sleep five hours. Mondays I crash and sleep for long periods of time. Maybe when I retire I can sleep like normal people.

Fiona McGier said...

Weekend? That 15-hour days thing is my "joy" 5 days a week when I'm working both jobs. Saturday I "only" work 8 hours on my feet. Sunday I sleep as late as the family will let me! Then Monday it all starts again. It's a miracle I get any writing done at all!