Sleeping problems can be a real danger, particularly if it’s the pilot of a Boing 737 who is suffering from them – as a 2010 Air India plane crash demonstrated, which killed all but 8 of the 166 passengers on board. Even this year, 2012, sleepy pilots have almost caused two accidents in the air.

And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention around 20% of automobile accidents are caused by drowsy drivers.

U.S. military researchers have concluded that sleeplessness is one of the leading causes of friendly fire.

What’s The Cause Of Sleeping Disorders?

Many. But one big reason: artificial lighting.

A. Roger Ekirch spent nearly 20 years in the 1980s and ’90s investigating the history of the night.

He claims humans once slept like this:

go to sleep after sunset, wake up around midnight. Have an hour of praying, or sex, or whatever. And then go back to sleep again.

This segmented sleep reappears when people stop using artificial lighting. And can also be seen in primitive cultures.

Effects of Sleep Problems

Higher risk of: heart disease. obesity. Stroke. Certain cancers.

Theory: our bodies repair themselves on a cellular level during sleep.

Sleep also important for mental performance, learning & happiness.

Sleeping Pills

In one meta-analysis of sleeping pill studies sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and published in 2007, patients taking popular prescription sleeping pills fell asleep just 13 minutes faster than those given a sugar pill. They slept for a grand total of 11 minutes longer. People seem to overestimate the effectiveness of sleeping pills, partly because of the placebo effect, and partly because some of these pills cause short-term memory loss that leaves people believing they got better sleep than they actually did—they just don’t remember all their tossing and turning.

How To Get Better Sleep

Go to bed every night at same time.

Avoid the bluish light from computer screens, TVs, smartphones for at least 1h before bed (because brain interprets that light as sunlight).

Relaxation techniques improve sleep quality & quantity.

Source: Decoding the Science of Sleep, Wall Street Journal, August 3, 2012

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