Getting Enough Sleep

An Outreach Project by Nile Bane | Return To Outreach Projects 2010

The key to a more successful and healthy life may lie with one simple habit: getting enough sleep. In modern America, the market is saturated with self-help books. Many consumers purchase these books with the hope that they contain the secret to a more productive and happy life, only to be frustrated by the sheer volume of recommendations that are difficult to digest and nearly impossible to apply in reality. With so much advice swirling around, one principle alone should emerge on top-making sleep a priority.

Formal education on this vitally important subject is virtually nonexistent at every level. Inexplicably, grade school, college, and medical school curriculums contain little, if any, education on sleep. The study of sleep medicine begins with a simple concept-sleep debt. Sleep debt is the accumulation of sleep loss over a period of time and is responsible for feelings of fatigue and lethargy while awake. The amount of sleep a specific person needs varies slightly by person and age. For general calculations, let's assume an individual needs 8 hours of sleep per night for optimal waking function. If that individual obtains only 6 hours of sleep per night for five days, he has accumulated 10 hours of sleep debt. As sleep debt accumulates, a person feels increasingly tired and inattentive during the day. A high sleep debt is responsible for thousands of deadly car accidents each year. Reducing ones sleep debt is easy and immensely rewarding-try it. To begin paying back ones sleep debt, simply sleep longer than your nightly need. It is important to recognize that an individual with a substantial sleep debt, for instance 20 hours or more, cannot eliminate their sleep debt in a single night. Therefore, it takes a committed effort over several nights to obtain extra sleep to begin noticing the life-altering improvements of a low sleep debt: increased alertness and attention span, enhanced cognitive performance in terms of learning, memory, and creativity, and improved mood. Studies have proven that reducing sleep debt to a minimum leads directly to a more motivated, energetic, and optimistic person. The repercussions of these findings for work place productivity and school performance should be apparent.

As with all biological functions, there are sleep disorders. The most noteworthy and by far the most prevalent is obstructive sleep apnea. Twenty-five percent of adult males and 10 percent of adult females in the United States are stricken with the severe burden of obstructive sleep apnea. A person afflicted with obstructive sleep apnea frequently stops breathing throughout the night due to an obstruction in the airway. As blood oxygen levels dip to catastrophic lows, the body forces the person to briefly wake up for gasps of air. Because the disruption in sleep lasts only a few seconds, the individual will not remember in the morning ever having woken up in the night. Consequently, a victim of obstructive sleep apnea will unknowingly awake hundreds of times in the night to catch a breath of air. As a result, even though the person may sleep for ten hours each night, it is not quality sleep and the person will suffer exhaustion during the day. The foremost symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea are fatigue and loud snoring.

The importance of detecting obstructive sleep apnea and referring those afflicted with the disease to a sleep clinic cannot be overstated. Obstructive sleep apnea is a direct cause of cardiovascular disease and stroke. The life expectancy of those with obstructive sleep apnea who remain untreated is dramatically shortened. According to Dr. William Dement, the consensus number one sleep expert in the world and founder of the Stanford University Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Center, obstructive sleep apnea may well be the number one health problem in America. Public awareness of obstructive sleep apnea must be raised.

With busy work lives and social demands, it is tempting to relegate sleep to a non-priority. This temptation must be opposed--your welfare depends on it.

Return To Outreach Projects 2010

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About This Site

Welcome! This site is continuously being created by students of Dr. William C. Dement's Sleep And Dreams course at Stanford University.

We made this site as a call to action for people all over the world to live healthier, happier, safer, and more productive lives by learning about their own sleep. We have faith that reading the information provided on this site will motivate you to be smart about your sleep deprivation and strategic about your alertness in order to live life to your fullest, most energetic potential.

In fact, we challenge you to do so! What do you say, are you up for the challenge?

The Stanford Sleep Book

Stanford Sleep Book Picture

Dr. Dement's pioneering textbook has been the core text for Sleep and Dreams since 1980, but it has just recently been made available to the wider public for the first time.

In it you'll find a more detailed account of the most important things you need to know about sleep, alertness, dreams, and sleep disorders. Studies, statistics, plus plenty of Dr. Dement's classic anecdotes painting the history of sleep medicine.

Preface | Intro | Contents | Get A Copy

More Sleep Resources

The Zeo

A revolution in personal sleep tracking, the Zeo is a wireless headband that transmits your brainwaves in realtime to a dock (pictured here) or your smartphone. The result? You can wake up and see exactly what stages of sleep you were in during the night! Unprecedented personalized sleep knowledge.

Sleep Paralysis: A Dreamer's Guide

Sleep Paralysis Treatment Book

Ever woken up paralyzed? A surprising number of us have, believe it or not. But few know the actual causes of this phenomenon, and fewer still how to exert control over it. Dream researcher and sleep paralysis expert Ryan Hurd shares breakthrough insights into how to do just that.

Important Disclaimer

Please Note:

The information found on this page and throughout this site is intended for general information purposes only. While it may prove useful and empowering, it is NOT intended as a substitute for the expertise and judgments of healthcare practitioners.

For more info, see our
Terms of Use.