A BBC newsreader nods off on camera, to general amusement. YouTube includes many similar clips. These are funny as incidents but they betoken an underlying public health and safety problem.
As my colleague Professor Bill Dement, perhaps the worldâ€™s foremost expert on sleep, has pointed out, sleep deprivation is widespread in the U.S. and a significant risk factor for accidental injuries. It also probably shortens lifespan. This is one of the realities that is obvious to people in poor and developing countries, but seems to elude many “more advanced” people in the developed world.
Itâ€™s almost as if people in developed societies think that caffeine, Ambien and a go-go lifestyle can overcome our animal nature. Forget it, we need to sack out. This isnâ€™t rocket science: When in doubt, rack out.
Sleep deprivation doesn’t just affect adults. I have met many mentally healthy, loving and intelligent parents who seem not to understand the importance of sleep to their children. When such people ask me for a referral for a child psychiatrist because their little one is chronically cranky, difficult, has low attention span, cries frequently, has poor appetite etc., I say â€œI can arrange that for you, but let me ask you: How much sleep does your child get each night?â€.
When the answer is (and it often is) something like â€œI donâ€™t know exactly, we put him to bed sometime between 9 and midnight, depending on when me and my spouse get to bedâ€, I suggest that before they go running to a child psychiatrist, they give a regular bed time and more sleep for the child a shot. Often thatâ€™s all there is to it. An irregular bed time and only 6 or 7 hours of sleep a night is hard enough for most adults; in little ones itâ€™s flat out brutal.
Anyway, it’s late here, so Iâ€™m going to bed. Gâ€˜Night.
p.s. The sf/fantasy writer Roger Zelazny had some wonderful quotes about sleep
From Knight of Shadows: Sleep is perhaps the only among life’s great pleasures which need not be of short duration
From the Isle of the Dead: Of all the things a man may do, sleep probably contributes most to keeping him sane. It puts brackets about each day. If you do something foolish or painful today, you get irritated if somebody mentions it, today. If it happened yesterday, though, you can nod or chuckle, as the case may be. You’ve crossed through nothingness or dream to another island in Time
There is also one I couldn’t find on line from, I think, This Immortal…something like of all earthly pleasures, food, laughter, love and sex, sleep is the best.