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Sleep Scientist Warns Against Walking Through Life 'In An Underslept State'
Terry Gross
October 16, 20173:04 PM ET
© 2017 npr
Source; excerpts follow.


The National Sleep Foundation recommends an average of eight hours of sleep per night for adults, but sleep scientist Matthew Walker says that too many people are falling short of the mark.

"Human beings are the only species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent gain," Walker says. "Many people walk through their lives in an underslept state, not realizing it."

Walker is the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley. He points out that lack of sleep — defined as six hours or fewer — can have serious consequences. Sleep deficiency is associated with problems in concentration, memory and the immune system, and may even shorten life span…

Walker discusses the importance of sleep — and offers strategies for getting the recommended eight hours — in his new book, Why We Sleep

I was a bit distracted when I first read this article, and didn't pick up on that last sentence quoted above: This is an interview with an author who has a book to sell, not a primer on sleep hygiene, although it serves fairly well as such (see the Interview Highlights). But even in that first read-through, I did notice this (my bold emphasis added):


"Every disease that is killing us in developed nations has causal and significant links to a lack of sleep," he says. "So that classic maxim that you may [have] heard that you can sleep when you're dead, it's actually mortally unwise advice from a very serious standpoint."

Really? EVERY disease that is killing us has CAUSAL links to a lack of sleep? Even cancer, diabetes, HIV? That just doesn't seem right to me.

If Walker had said that chronic lack of restorative sleep is debilitating, and can make recovery from various diseases more difficult, I'd have no problem with that. But he seems to be saying that lack of sleep is actually causing these diseases, and that simply cannot be true. Even well-slept folks can be afflicted by cancer, heart disease, diabetes, infections, and stroke. This seems to be hyperbole at the very least.

Aside from that, the suggestions regarding better sleep are useful.

4 Comments On This Entry


that would be me.

I've scheduled a sleep study at my doctor's urging, but I already know that I have apnea, and my sleep pattern sux. The thyroid is part of it, but not all.
It's still a big problem here in Japan. Most famous recent case is Miwa Sado, who died of heart failure at only 31. The word for it here is 過労死, "death from overwork". Overwork leading to undersleep, naturally.
Since I was diagnosed with Sleep apnea (probably too many beers in my life, I am carrying around just a feeeew extra pounds) and got a CPAP machine, I have been sleeping much better (Mrs. Swede is happier too!) I agree the author went overboard in his effort to scare up sales (literally) I agree that his overall premise has a grain of truth. Like you said, poor sleep habits make it harder to work, drive, or heal from illness.
Sleep apnea can be very problematic, and not just from a cognitive perspective. It puts enormous strains on the body, notably cardiac and respiratory. It's good to to follow up on that and take steps to abate it.

For me, I don't have apnea... I have cats that disrupt my sleep on a regular basis. ;-)
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