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Sleep Disorders

Over sleep

10/17/2007

Question:

I`m 17 yrs old. I want to cut down my sleep to 5-6 hours so that I can study well. My weigt is 47. Please tell me some method which has no side effect on health. Thank you.

Answer:

By your question, I assume that you typically sleep longer than 6 hours per night and that you are planning on intentionally sleep depriving yourself in order to get your interviewing and work done. I have to advise you, this is not a good idea!!

While we don't completely understand the reasons we sleep and what the function of sleep is, growing research suggests that adequate sleep is important for the process of functioning and health. Studies have found that individuals that are sleep deprived tend to perform poorly in test situations, have reduced concentration and tend to be more irritable and anxious. Chronic partial sleep deprivation can also affect our ability to learn and thus can have a significant impact on school and job performance. Believe it or not, but we actually "learn" (take daytime experiences or what we have studied during the day and store them into long-term memory) better with sleep than if we're to stay awake all night.

But wait, there's even more! We are really just now beginning to understand the wide ranging impact that lack of adequate sleep can have on our health and well-being. Recent research has shown, in pretty convincing fashion, that insufficient (lack of enough) sleep can contribute to significant weight gain. This appears to be due to changes in hormones that control appetite and cravings for certain foods. Weight gain, in turn, can lead to other medical problems, such as diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, etc. While not as clear, chronic lack of sleep by itself may contribute directly to the development of hypertension. As mentioned above, another area of concern is the impact that insufficient sleep has on vigilance, ability to concentrate and daytime sleepiness. These all can be impaired by insufficient sleep and, as a result, can have wide ranging consequences, including increased rates of car accidents and work-related accidents. Some of the largest man made disasters in modern times were attributed, in part, to sleep deprived individuals making poor decisions (Three Mile Island, the Exxon Valdez, etc.).

As you can see, lack of adequate sleep can have serious consequences, affecting your learning, health and social function. I strongly advise you against consciously pursuing a lifestyle change as you mention. How can you avoid this? I'm not sure I can answer that for you as you need to put this information in the context of your own life. Whatever your decision, I recommend that you include adequate sleep as part of your plans.

If you have other specific questions about sleep, lack of sleep, or other sleep disorders, please visit the American Academy of Sleep Medicine website. In addition to information, the website contains a list of Sleep Centers and Sleep Specialists across the country so that you may locate one near you. The website Sleep Education.com also contains plenty of consumer friendly information about sleep and sleep apnea. Good luck and here's to better sleep!

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Response by:

Dennis   Auckley, MD Dennis Auckley, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University