A Love Letter for Sleep

Dear short sleepers,

So many of you are in the news these days. And I’m genuinely worried about you.

I’m sure you know who you are. You are the ones who work late into the night and rise early to get a jump on the day. Or you’re the ones who stay up well past midnight watching Netflix or catching up on Instagram and then can’t fall asleep. Or maybe you’re the ones who think getting by on four or five hours a night is all you need. Your motto: I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

I know how it is. I relish those hours when all around is quiet. The children are tucked into their beds and the world exhales. It is so tempting to fill those hours with all the things you wanted to do during the day but just didn’t have time — read a book, play an online game, catch up on the news. Sleep beckons and, yet, we resist.

While it’s true that some people can get by on four to six hours of sleep each night, that applies to a very small percentage of the population. Short sleepers have a genetic mutation that allows them to adequately recharge after such a short duration. For the rest of us, more hours desperately are needed.

Just take a look at the consequences of inadequate rest, according to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School — weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, mood disorders, not to mention, generally foggy thinking and poor decision making.

In Nightcap of this month’s issue, you can read about two recent studies that link short sleep to clogged arteries and increased headache pain. It seems a new study about the negative effects of lost sleep comes out every few weeks.

At its most basic level, sleep recharges our bodies and brains so we can do our best work. As Arianna Huffington, author of “The Sleep Revolution,” wrote to Elon Musk in an open letter on Aug. 20: “For machines … downtime is a bug; for humans, downtime is a feature. The science is clear. And what it tells us is that there’s simply no way you can make good decisions and achieve your world-changing ambitions while running on empty.”

Huffington later made a statement to The Washington Post saying she wrote the open letter because the issue applies to many people, not just Musk. “It’s about the deeply entrenched delusion in our culture that burning ourselves out is the price we have to pay for success,” she said.

Those who are making sleep part of the national conversation are doing their part. And those who are making and selling sleep systems also are doing a service. Maybe today’s short sleepers need to invest in a more comfortable mattress, or sheets and protectors that keep them cool, such as the ones listed in this story.

So, tonight, when sleep beckons, give in. Enjoy the comforts of sliding into peaceful slumber, and rest well knowing you’re making life a bit better for all.

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