THE POWER OF SLEEP
HOW MUCH SLEEP DO YOU GET?
Ask this question and you'll hear some interesting answers. The prolific inventor Thomas Edison slept three or four hours at night, regarding sleep as a waste of time, "a heritage from our cave days." President Clinton grabs five to six hours. The performer Janis Joplin never wanted to sleep for fear she might miss a good party. Martha Stewart, an expert on planning good parties, only sleeps four to five hours each night. The comedian Jay Leno manages five hours and the millions of Americans who stay up to watch his late-night TV show won't get much more.
Then there are those at the other end of the sleep-length spectrum. Albert Einstein claimed he needed ten hours of sleep to function well. President Calvin Coolidge demanded eleven. Nighttime sleep wasn't adequate for Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Winston Churchill. They took naps (and, incidentally, so did Edison). As Reagan half jokingly remarked to members of the press, "No matter what time it is, wake me up, even if it's in the middle of a cabinet meeting."1
Ask Grandma her "expert" opinion and you'll get an earful of advice on sleep needs and strategies:
Everybody needs a good eight hours of sleep.
A heavy meal makes you sleepy.
Snacks before bedtime aren't good for you.
Sleep before midnight is best.
Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
Older people need less sleep.
Just a friendly warning: Grandmother psychology is sometimes on target, but not always.
Since everybody on earth sleeps at least once every twenty-four hours, weshould all be experts. Knowledge about sleep, just like knowledge about nutrition and exercise, is essential to your life, for happiness, productivity, and general health. Everyone should know exactly how much sleep he or she requires to feel wide awake, dynamic, and energetic all day long. Everyone should know the strategies and techniques for getting quality nocturnal sleep for maximum daytime performance. And everyone should know how to cope with sleep deprivation when it does occur. But, alas, we are grossly ignorant when it comes to our own need for sleep.
In today's frenetic society people who sleep six hours or less are regarded as being tough, competitive, and ambitious. If you say you need lots of sleep you run the risk of being perceived as one who lacks what it takes to be successful. Maybe you'll even be regarded as lazy. Can people function well on six or seven hours of sleep? Or does everyone actually need eight or more hours to ensure good health and optimal daytime performance? Do men need more sleep than women? Do you need less sleep as you get older? When is the best time to exercise if you want a good night's sleep? Does a glass of wine before bedtime help you sleep better? Can you accurately assess how well you slept last night? What's the ideal bedroom temperature? Are naps good for you? Strangely enough, few of us can accurately answer even the most basic questions regarding sleep. We'll test your "sleep IQ" and your "sleep strategies" in the next chapter. Expect to fail, but that's okay. Otherwise, this book would not be necessary.
ARE YOU GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP?
How much sleep do I get each night during the week?
Does it differ on the weekends?
Do I fall asleep the minute my head hits the pillow?
Do I need an alarm clock to wake me up?
If you're getting less than eight hours of sleep each night,
including weekends, or if you fall asleep instantly, or need an alarm clock to wake up, consider yourself one of millions of chronically sleep-deprived people--perhaps blissfully ignorant of how sleepy and ineffective you are, or how dynamic you could be with adequate sleep. We'll test your "sleep deprivation" in the next chapter. Again, expect to fail; you'll be joined by the majority of our teenage and adult population.
According to sleep experts, if you want to be fully alert, in a good mood, mentally sharp, creative, and
energetic all day long, you might need to spend at least one third of your life sleeping. Over an average lifetime that's a commitment of nearly twenty-four years in bed!
Who can afford so much time asleep? Motivational speakers make big money encouraging us to spend less time sleeping and more time working. They'll try to convince you that you can condition yourself to sleep just four hours a night. Yes, you can condition yourself to wake up after four hours. But I've got news for you. There's a definite downside that you're not being told. . . . Reading this book will provide some illuminating facts that might save your career, your health, and even your life.
THE POWER OF SLEEP
Given that you might need to spend at least a third of your life sleeping, you should know what's going on. As I mentioned in my introduction, sleep is not a vast wasteland of inactivity. The sleeping brain is highly active at various times during the night, performing numerous physiological, neurological, and biochemical housekeeping tasks. These are essential for everything from maintaining life itself to reorganizing and enhancing thinking and memory. This enables us to remember the past, organize the present, and anticipate the future.
The process of sleep, if given adequate time and the proper environment, provides tremendous power. It
restores, rejuvenates, and energizes the body and brain. The third of your life that you should spend sleeping has profound effects on the other two thirds of your life, in terms of alertness, energy, mood, body weight, perception, memory, thinking, reaction time, productivity, performance, communication skills, creativity, safety, and good health.
If our sleep is limited, our health and daytime potential is significantly reduced, if not destroyed. With adequate sleep and its concomitant brain activity, the world is our oyster . . . a pretty good deal for something that is enjoyable to do and doesn't take much, if any, effort! Power Sleep. Copyright © by James Maas. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.