Slim and effective: how scientists managed to convince Americans to sleep more - ForumDaily
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In 2002, I came to the USA to study in a graduate degree at the University of Ohio (m. Afens). One of my greatest impressions was the attitude of many students to sleep. It seemed that many of them were proud of how little they needed to sleep. They believed that written work should be written at the last moment and all night, then prepare for tests.

Фото: Depositphotos

Of course, in Ukraine, students also do it. But, unlike the majority of Ukrainian universities, tests and written works in the US must be taken from 2 to 5 once a week, and not at the end of the semester. So, a deep lack of sleep turns into a norm for a student.

And the consequences were noticeable. In reading groups, students could barely keep their eyes open. And everywhere - in the library, in classrooms, corridors, cafes, in the clearing and even in the gym - one could see sleeping students, many with signs of exhaustion on their faces.

How to work 130 hours per week? Strategically sleep and go to the toilet

Life outside the university was not much different in this aspect. What surprised me most was the lack of sleep in the medical profession - the people who should be most aware of its consequences! Doctors, nurses and especially interns worked up to 100 hours a week, which meant that shifts could last up to 30 hours! And no one seemed to be bothered by the fact that they entrusted various parts of the body to persons with a scalpel or a syringe in their hands, who had not slept for two days.

Фото: Depositphotos

The same attitude was common in the world of business and finance. Investment bankers and stock brokers worked on 90 hours per week. Executive Director Yahoo Marissa Mayer spoke in an interview Bloombergthat when she was in Google, then I worked all night long at least once a week. Working 130 hours a week is possible, she assured the journalist - to do this, you just need to “be strategic about when you sleep, wash and go to the toilet.”

Not only doctors and financiers were advised to save on sleep. In the kindergarten where my child went, once a quarter they handed out a leaflet for parents with advice. One article said: if you want to accomplish more, sleep less.

Sleepy teens and inattentive children

Not only adults, but also children do not get enough sleep. “Across the world, children sleep an hour less than they did 30 years ago. The cost: lower IQ, poorer emotional well-being, attention deficit disorder, and excess weight,” write Poe Bronson and Ashley Merriman in Parenting Shock: A Revolutionary View of Parenting Children and Teens.

Фото: Depositphotos

Lack of sleep is most common among teenagers. Most teenagers sleep 7-7.5 hours a day, when they need 9-9.5. The reasons for sleep deprivation among 14-18 year olds are familiar to young people around the world: lots of lessons and homework, after school activities, computer games, social media, TV. However, in the United States there is an additional reason that helps turn teenagers into “zombies”: early start of school. In 40% of all US high schools (high school) The first lesson starts on or before 8 AM. In adolescents, in contrast to children and adults, the sleep hormone melatonin begins to be produced not after dark, but after 90 minutes. Formerly 11: 00 PM Evenings for a teenager, if desired, it is difficult to fall asleep.

Experiments with the start of classes at least an hour later showed numerous benefits for young people. They learn better, become kinder, less prone to depression and conflict. In the city of Lexington, Kentucky, after shifting the start time of classes, it was also recorded at 16.5% fewer road crashes involving teenagers. In our school district, the start of high school classes was moved to 8: 00 only in 2014 year (it was 7: 20).

Consequences of lack of sleep

One of the most widely known consequences of lack of sleep is forgetfulness. During sleep, the information and impressions received during the day are stored in different parts of the brain. And this requires all phases of sleep. For example, when learning a foreign language, new words are memorized during one phase, and pronunciation during another.

In a study of the sleep of seven thousand children by researchers at the University of Minnesota, the results of which are presented in “educational shock”, it turned out that on average, excellent students slept 15 minutes more than good students, and those - 15 minutes more than C students.

Lack of sleep hits the so-called "Executive function" , for which the prefrontal cortex of the brain is responsible. This is the ability to think through your actions, do them according to plan, anticipate consequences and get results. In a Tel Aviv University study, also cited in the book Educational Shock, the cognitive performance of sixth-graders deprived of only one hour of sleep per night fell to the level of a well-sleeping fourth-grader in less than a week.

Also suffers ability to focus and maintain attention. In one study, scientists tested the cognitive abilities of people who sleep 4, 6, and 8 watches. As it turned out, for those who do not get enough, they decline every day until they reach a consistently low level.

Moreover, people who sleep little often do not themselves notice how their cognitive abilities and well-being are deteriorating. Forgetfulness? Irritability? Is the skill no longer the same? What did you want when old age is on the threshold, and everything is bad in the country? In fact, instead of getting used to the lack of sleep, there is a decrease in the standard of one’s own well-being and efficiency, as well as an accumulation of sleep deficit. In other words, the bar is falling, but a person does not notice it or takes it for granted.

But that's not the case for me or anyone I know, someone might say. Yes, I also know a person who sleeps 4-5 hours a day and achieves wonderful results in all areas of life. Some lucky people on this planet have what is called “healthy insomnia.” They are able to sleep very little without any loss to health and performance. This phenomenon is purely genetic and it is impossible to develop healthy insomnia, only unhealthy insomnia. Therefore, do not let yourself be blackmailed by Napoleon, Michelangelo, Margaret Thatcher and other “genetic mutants”.

Also sleep strengthens the immune system in a dream, the cells are updated (repaired), aging is significantly slowed down and appearance is improved. Any woman has repeatedly put this scientific experiment on herself, hiding his results under a thick layer of foundation.

In a dream Emotional state is overloaded. Negative emotions and memories are stored in the amygdala, and positive ones are stored in the hypothalamus, which suffers more than the amygdala from lack of sleep, as discussed in the book by Poe Bronson and Ashley Merriman.

Фото: Depositphotos

My own theory is that the low status of women in many societies, dating back at least to the dawn of civilization, is partly due to the fact that they bore children almost every year, and therefore suffered all the consequences of a significant and prolonged lack of sleep. They were considered stupid, unable to control their emotions, less capable - all things that surprisingly coincide with the consequences of lack of sleep. Today in the United States, although women in all age groups have less free time than men, they sleep slightly more.

And one more consequence of lack of sleep. - excess weight. Insomnia activates the hormone ghrelin, which is responsible for appetite and suppresses the hormone leptin, which signals the brain that the stomach is already full and can stop eating. As a result, people who sleep little, even if they consume the same amount of calories, are gaining weight.

Americans convinced more sleep

In the United States, more and more studies are being conducted and published that show the devastating health effects of sleep deprivation. In 1989, the year after it was determined that the lack of sleep at the New York Hospital staff caused the death of a teenager, New York State limited the number of hours interns could work to 80. Later, restrictions were imposed on the duration of the work of medical staff at the federal level.

On television, sellers of drugs for insomnia, mattresses and pillows in advertising their product actively refer to the results of research, bringing the importance of sleep to millions of viewers.

Editor-in-chief and founder of the online edition Huffington Post Arianna Gaffington says the United States is undergoing a revolutionary shift in attitudes toward sleep. She herself, as a busy, successful woman and mother of two children, managed for a long time with 3-4 hours of sleep a day. Finding herself one day in a pool of blood—from exhaustion, Gaffington simply lost consciousness and fell—she decided to change her life and the lives of millions of Americans. In her book, presentations and interviews, she actively promotes adequate sleep. She believes it will soon become fashionable to brag about good sleep, as well as a healthy diet and regular exercise.

And the Americans are listening. According to measurements of time use, over the past 14 years, Americans began to sleep on 17 minutes more every night. However, at least a third of all US residents still suffer from lack of sleep.

The original column is published on the website. Ukrainian Service “Голоса America".

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