How Can We Use this Information?
First off, think back to a time that you were really well rested. It may be on a vacation or holiday break, before the kids were born, while unemployed, or if you’re lucky, in the last week or two. Then answer these questions:
– How much sleep do you need to really feel your best?
– Are you getting that amount of sleep most nights?
– If not, how much more sleep time do you need?
Now, how are you spending the last couple hours before bed? Are you watching TV, or doing other hobbies that you could do at another time in order to get the sleep you need? If so, could you move this TV watching to another time, maybe using some recording device?
The biggest question though, the ‘Million Dollar’ question to ask yourself is: “Would I benefit more from getting more sleep and being healthier, or do I benefit more from watching TV in the evening?” Let me know your answer!
In June 2009, Drs. Basner and Dinges published an article titled “Dubious Bargain: Trading Sleep for Leno and Letterman.” Is this something you can relate to- staying up late to watch your favorite show even when you know you’re tired?
The relationship between exercise and sleep
The U.S. Census Bureau has a continuous telephone survey of 105 million households. It is called the American Time Use Survey (ATUS). This paper looked at how people spent the 2 hours before bed, and the 2 hours after getting up. They grouped people into 3 categories: Long workers (>8 hours daily), short workers (<8 hours) and non workers.
An estimated 20-40% of adults sleep less than the recommended 7+ hours each night. Remember that measured sleep is usually less than reported sleep, so these estimates may be low. Short sleep duration is associated with increased illness and obesity. The researchers’ goal was to determine if there are discretionary activities that can be eliminated to increase sleep time.
Among the three groups, bedtime was the same, and the long workers got up earlier than the others. People watch TV for 55 minutes of the 2 hours before bed. Travel and work took up 27% (about 30 minutes) of the 2 hours after waking for the day.
The authors conclude that watching TV may be an important social cue of approaching bedtime. They also conclude that “giving up some TV viewing in the evening should be possible to reduce chronic sleep debt and promote adequate sleep in those who need it.”
Other blogposts have discussed drowsy driving, and this month a new research study updated this work. The study measured how sleepy individuals were, and how many auto accidents they had.
The Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) to measure sleepiness was done on 618 people. During the MSLT, every two hours the participant has an opportunity to nap, and EEG measures how long it takes to fall asleep. Falling asleep in 5- 10 minutes is considered moderately sleepy, with sleep onset in less than 5 minutes considered excessively sleepy. The number of car crashes in the 10 years surrounding the MSLT was tabulated for each person.
The people who were excessively sleepy had an accident rate of 59%, while those who were alert had only a 47% rate. The difference in number of accidents between these two groups was significant. Excessively sleepy people also had a higher risk of severe injury in an auto accident than alert individuals.
This is important for us as individuals every time we get on the road, and is also a public safety issue. Read earlier blogpost for tips you can use to stay alert on the road.