Huffington sleep challenge

January 10, 2010 | By | 7 Replies More

Arianna Huffington has invited women to join her sleep challenge.   The concern is that many women (and there’s no compelling reason to limit this endeavor to women) are sleep deprived.  Huffington’s challenge is for each of the participants to get a full night’s sleep every night for the next month–it’s a “sleep boot camp.”  The benefits for those who succeed are substantial:

Work decisions, relationship challenges, any life situation that requires you to know your own mind — they all require the judgment, problem-solving and creativity that only a rested brain is capable of and are all handled best when you bring to them the creativity and judgment that are enhanced by sleep. “Everything you do, you’ll do better with a good night’s sleep,” says Dr. [Michael Breus , Ph.D., author of Beauty Sleep: Look Younger, Lose Weight, and Feel Great Through Better Sleep.] Yet women who constantly push themselves to get by on less never know what that “peak performance” feels like.

Seventeen hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.05% (two glasses of wine).  Sleeping can thus be a matter of life and death.  “Driver fatigue, according to the National Highway

Sleeping Lion by Rennet Stowe on Flickr (creative commons)

Sleeping Lion by Rennet Stowe on Flickr (creative commons)

Traffic Safety Administration, causes over 100,000 accidents and 1500 deaths each year. ”  Being well-rested also assists with weight loss, which could benefit the majority of Americans.

How much sleep does an adult need?  It varies.  For most adults, it’s between 7-9 hours per night.    WebMD suggests this test: “if you feel drowsy during the day, even during boring activities, you haven’t had enough sleep.”  The National Sleep Foundation offers this strategy to avoid the temptation of staying up:

Most importantly, make sleep a priority. You must schedule sleep like any other daily activity, so put it on your “to-do list” and cross it off every night. But don’t make it the thing you do only after everything else is done – stop doing other things so you get the sleep you need.

I know two men who have rarely slept more than 4 hours per night and both of them seem to operate a a high level during the day.  This makes me jealous, of course, because while they are happily awake, I am “wasting” my life away in bed.  Both of these two men claim that their father’s also only needed 4 hours of sleep, which suggests that they were blessed with good genes, whereas I got the standard set that requires 7 or 8 hours of sleep per night.   If only I could sleep 4 hours per night instead of 7 (and if I could operate at a high level on that amount), that would add up to the equivalent of an extra (365 x 4 = 182) 8-hour work days every year.  Imagine the additional things I could get done!   Even cutting one hour off the sleep that I seem to need for optimum performance would “get” me that equivalent of an extra 45 8-hour work days each year.  No wonder it’s so tempting to stay up too late each night . . .

An extended sleep camp of an entire month is a good idea because research shows that we carry a “sleep debt” that can’t be resolved with one or two good nights sleep.  That sleep debt seems to carry over for about two weeks, according to William Dement, author of The Promise of Sleep.

I’m going to accept Huffington’s invitation to join her sleep challenge (even though I’m not a woman).  I want to see what it’s like to feel super-charged during the day.  I tend to stay up too long in order to read one more article or write one more post.  And most of my late-night reading or writing is done using the Internet, which is highly engaging thanks to the ability to surf from site to site at one’s whim.  This constant change of scene is difficult to turn off–producers of television shows and commercials know this very well.  Therefore, part of my plan will be to get away from the computer before it gets to be late night.  I’ve never fallen asleep at the computer, though I have often fallen asleep while reading a book in bed–I usually wake up much later with the book still on top of me! Reading in bed is much safer (and I think that I absorb the material better when I’m reading real paper–plus I’m a prolific author of marginalia).

What would you pay for a drug that super-charged you; made you smarter, healthier, gave you increased attention, better reaction times and made you all-around happier?   Ten dollars per day would be a bargain, but it’s all free for anyone with the discipline to wind up the day on time and turn out the lights.

Related:  Frank Lipman offers Ten Tips for good sleeping.


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Category: Health

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (7)

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  1. Alison says:

    Oh, if only it were that easy. Some of us do all the things we're supposed to, but still don't get the sleep. On a good night, I might fall asleep right away, wake up only once or twice, and spend less than an hour or so trying to fall back to sleep after those wakeups. On a normal night, my sleep is not nearly that blissful. Getting a full 7-8 hours of sleep would take up at least 12 hours out of every day for me.

  2. Darlene says:

    I wish I could take that challenge! I've been having sleep issues for the past four years, and for about three of them I was getting a full nights sleep only every fourth day or so. I finally mentioned it to my doc, feeling like a total wimp ("oh, poor me, can't sleep"). I was happy that he took it very seriously, and with some meds, used with caution, and a major lifestyle change with a sleep plan built in, I now actually sleep well about five nights a week.

    Sleep when you can, don't push yourself to read one more book or read one last blog…I had no idea how much I valued sleep until it was lost to me.

    I will never take a good nights sleep for granted again. Cherish yours, if you have them.

  3. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    If you have difficulty winding down, you should look into relaxation training. I went through the training back in college, and since then if I have trouble sleeping, I can use the techniques to completely relax. The University of Maryland Medical Center Website has a <a>page that describes common techniques for relaxation.

    I combined the relaxation techniques with some self-hypnosis methods so I can trigger a relaxation by whispering a keyphrase to myself.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      I don't have troubles sleeping. I just don't want to go to sleep. I just want to get one more thing done. And then, another thing or two or three, before giving up the night.

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