Posted by: First Mate | April 9, 2010

Ah, Sleep. How much do we really need?

We have all been there, a night with howling winds, fear of the anchor dragging, creaking lines, a sick child, a restless night with racing thoughts.  How does this lack of sleep affect our decision-making?  Or perhaps our relationships and health?

I was once told that we are more likely to feel the symptoms of sea sickness if we are over tired.  I looked this is up and found cause of motion sickness.  Lack of sleep also affects our judgment (important on a boat) and our food cravings.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, there is NO magic number of how much sleep we need.  What?  Well, have you ever wondered how the trauma surgeon can still save lives on 2 hours sleep or how those “single handers” circumnavigate or race on days/years of 20 minute naps? Especially since sleep debt – or long-term lack of sleep is definitively linked to:

  • obesity or a higher body mass index
  • risk of vehicle accidents
  • risk of diabetes and heart disease
  • additional risk for  psychiatric conditions like depression and substance abuse
  • decreased ability to pay attention or remember new information

Each individual has different sleep needs and our sleep needs change at different periods in our lives. I know that if I am in better shape I need less sleep.  After I drink alcohol or when my adrenaline is flowing, it feels like I need less sleep and then hours later NOTHING can keep me awake.

More importantly, sleep is my friend.  Why do children fight the opportunity to nap?  Probably because they fear they will miss something.  I often miss a good night’s sleep and wish I could get some of those naps back.

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Responses

  1. Green tea latte. It’s my ancient Chinese secret.


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