Sleepy Heads

Thought-tober: Sleep in the modern world

We have a pretty good idea that almost all of us don’t sleep enough. 100 years ago we slept 10-12 hours a night and a few decades ago we slept 9-10. Now the recommendation of 7-9 hours a night is still hardly hit by many of us (if not most).

Blame it on whatever you like, technology, lights being available 24-7, too much getting crammed into each day or all of the above, but the bottom line is that most of us don’t get that much needed rest every night and very rarely is it done in concert with the sun.

As a dad of 4, including an infant, and as someone who works early, I’m certainly in this growing group of sleepy heads.

What I’ve wondered lately is if our recommendations might need some adjustments. It’s been the assumption that we just don’t need to sleep as much as we used to either because we aren’t as physically active or that we really don’t need it/can get by with less.

I wonder: should we even be sleeping more these days because of all the stimulation, stress and wear and tear on our bodies? It’s different than the energy expenditure 100 years ago or even 30 but I would argue that we undergo more of a total stress load now, including our poor diet, that means we need more recovery and rest time than ever before.

With the 7-9 hour recommendation we might be severely underestimating our need for sleep because so many people still seem to be underslept, tired and sick. We need to rethink our assumption that sleep doesn’t matter as much anymore just because we don’t have the hard labor we used to and/or that since we invented light bulbs we can do whatever we want and/or that people don’t want to “miss out on life” and TV shows and/or people won’t be able to be “overachievers” and sleep when they’re dead.

It just might matter now more than ever.

As a great TED talker recently put it:

We can’t change the world overnight, but we can change our world every night. Dr. Kirk Parsley

Thanks for reading, have a great night!

P.S. Sleep To Be An All-Star

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