We all know the health risks of smoking, drinking and eating too much. But sleep expert Neil Stanley says we don't pay attention to the risks of having too little sleep.
In this week's Scrubbing Up health column, he warns it is time to "reclaim the night".
An excellent piece. I used to get what I thought was a cold about once a year, but have had it (with identical symptoms) about 14 times in the past two years. I have also had psoriasis and sebhorreic dermatitis for several years. I'm now convinced, through my own analysis and diagnosis, that both of these are greatly exacerbated by lack of sleep. I average about six hours a night, and with a daughter who's nearly two and a half, it's difficult to get more than that these days.
Andy, Dunfermline, Scotland, UK
I've always been a "short" sleeper. I usually only sleep four to five hours per night and don't ever remember sleeping what used to be regarded as the eight hours standard requirement. One thing I can never fully understand is, how can you be really sure when you have had enough sleep. I once read that it is quite normal to wake up feeling tired. If that is the case for everyone, would it not be the natural response to try and sleep some more. Sometimes the opposite effect seems to occur when we feel lethargic from "too much" sleep. My point is, can there ever be a way of establishing accurately an individual's sleep requirements. I would be interested to find out if research in this subject has provided an answer.
Jim Underwood, Colchester, UK
The mattress is vital for a good sleep but it seems to be constantly ignored. People will spend more money on a TV set than they will on a good mattress. Having somewhere comfortable to sleep is crucial for a quality nights sleep. You spend more time in the bedroom than anywhere else in the house, but people are more interested in the look of a settee than a decent mattress that will improve your sleep and ultimately your well-being.
Andrew Soule, London, UK
I remember years ago hearing a piece of advice which was, 'it's the sleep you get before midnight, which gives you the most energy'. For the most part I have followed this advice and can say that I am always a far happier and healthier individual when I do.
Christina, Stirling, Scotland, UK
At university here you cannot do it all. There is a built in idea that you will run yourself into the ground over the short eight week terms and try to recover your soul in the interim. Needless to say sleep seems always low on the list of priorities.
Pascal, Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK
I'd love a good night's sleep - but with a partner who gets up two or three times a night and who snores, groups of party-goers continuing their "fun" on their way home past my bedroom window even at 3 or 4 am, and drivers who MUST rev VERY hard to get up the hill, there's not much chance. I also seem to wake with the dawn nowadays, whereas once I could sleep until midday (not helpful when we've been on a gig and not got home until 2 am) and then cannot get back to sleep. I'd love to be more like my partner who can have a nap or sleep almost to order, and seems to be undisturbed by anything. Knowing I need the sleep does not unfortunately create the conditions for getting it.
JC, Margate, UK
Considering the article is headed: "Time to 'reclaim the night' for sleep"; it would have been a great opportunity to have included a list itemising ways in which people could be encouraged to have a good night's sleep; such as:
- not eating late at night particularly just before going to bed
- avoiding 'strenuous' discussions late at night
- discouraging caffeine consumption late in the evening; etc.
In fact to educate and remind folk to reduce / avoid those things that could 'excite' the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system in the latter part of the evening as these things can affect one's adrenal glands which will affect one's ability to sleep... that would be a very good thing. I appreciate the article is a social comment about life in the 21 century - but why waste a good opportunity to put some helpful tips in!
Christine J. Brooks, Bedfordshire, UK
It is not just the 24/7 life style. More people than is realised have sleep problems. These range from Narcolepsy to Sleep Apnoea to Hypersomnia to EDS (excessive daytime sleepiness.) Nearly all are treatable but not all are easy to diagnose. If you are getting seven or more hours sleep and still feel tired. Go see your GP and ask to be referred to a sleep specialist. The most important thing is be honest with yourself. To paraphrase Dirty Harry - Do you feel tired? Well do you? BTW I suffer EDS. So I think I know what I am talking about. I am just off to have a nap!
David, Guildford, UK
When our children are being put to bed after having their brains fried by TV and computer games is it any wonder they can't sleep properly? One mistake we make is to give toddlers too little sleep. This actually makes it harder for them to even get to sleep properly because they are, strangely enough, over-tired. Toddlers need a nap during the afternoon as well as an early bedtime. This makes for a remarkable improvement in their mood during the day.
Bill Yeager, London, UK
If the BBC think we should go to bed earlier, stop putting the best programmes on so late!
The problem is that even if we suggest people should spend more time sleeping, less time at work, and more time looking after themselves, the ones who do spend more time working 24/7 get promoted or keep their jobs. Society needs a real rethink about employment schedules, as a return to 9-5 work might benefit all.
Bill, London, UK
I think, yes sleep is an integral part of each and every human being but you really have to make a tough decision between your health and your social standing in your community. Sometimes you have to go an extra mile to achieve your goals thus the onus is on each and every individual to weigh the pros and cons associated.
Blessing, Harare, Zimbabwe
I am almost certainly sleep-deprived. I work in the evenings so I eat late after returning and then it takes a long while for me to settle down for sleep. My housemate usually goes to bed at 1am or 2am and gets up at 7am so there's often no point in going to bed before that time. It seems as if it's considered a good thing if you can survive on a few hours of sleep now. Eight hours a night is seen as for wimps.
Sarah, Lyon, France
TV throughout the night doesn't help. When I was younger, the BBC ended its service around 11.30ish with an announcer saying "Goodnight"
Jonathan Beck, Gillingham, Kent, UK
I've read reports that people who have four hours sleep at night fare better than those who sleep for eight hours. I've also read about some people who 'catnap' throughout a 24 hour period (presumably they have a work schedule that can accommodate this), sleeping for no more that an hour at a time. Test had shown that 'catnappers' functioned better than those who have one period of sleep for several hours within each 24 hour span. Margaret Thatcher famously functioned well on a maximum of four hours sleep each night. I normally wake naturally after four to six hours sleep and generally get up then. On the occasions that I stay in bed and go back to sleep for a further hour or so I find that I feel sluggish throughout the day. I think that the problem is not so much the amount of sleep as the quality of sleep. If you lead a stressful life, you'll probably go to bed feeling stressed and wake up feeling stressed. I think this, more than anything, contributes to feeling constantly tired and eventually leads to health problems.
Ron Tocknell, Lydney, UK
I dream of a good nights sleep...
Debs Wilson, Twickenham, UK
I love sleeping it's my favourite thing . However with a wakey baby and four-year-old who still wets the bed I don't always get a good nights sleep . Plus my hubby never wants to go to bed till midnight. I guess lack of sleep is just a fact of life. However, it definitely ages people and can make many next to useless in their work. Finally - people who wake people up at night with their anti-social behaviour should be fined. Good night!
Claudia, Glasgow ,UK
I think that a lot of teenagers suffer from a lack of sleep due to facebook, game consoles and so on. At the moment I am getting a lack of sleep and want to know how I can improve it. If I plan to go to bed at 10 and actually get in bed at 10 I won't actually fall asleep! So I think that helpful hints would be very beneficial to all.
James Hobson, Market Drayton, UK
The importance of sleep is consistently understated, and the unbalancing effect of snatching 4-5 hours of sleep on most work nights then sleeping 'to catch up' nearly all weekend is too. We should make sleeping when we're tired and getting up when we naturally wake up a priority. Our productivity would massively increase. But in a work society where what we are SEEN to be doing is more important than what we ARE doing, I am extremely pessimistic that the culture of long hours, sneaky skiving and overt displays of working hard and playing hard will change in the foreseeable future.
Alan Price Fishe, London, UK