Sleep On It

Despite the various strategies I like to cover on this blog, the single most important thing we can do to improve our productivity is simple: sleep more. National Geographic has a great article on the latest in sleep research. Let's roll the stats:

Insomnia is at epidemic levels in the developed world. Fifty to 75 million Americans, roughly a fifth of the population, complain about problems sleeping. Fifty-six million prescriptions for sleeping pills were written in 2008, up 54 percent over the previous four years. The revenue for sleep centers is expected to approach four and a half billion dollars by 2011. Yet remarkably little is being done to understand the root causes of insomnia. Most medical school students get no more than four hours of training on sleep disorders; some get none. Family doctors' health questionnaires often don't even ask about sleep.

The social and economic costs from the undertreatment of sleeplessness are huge. The Institute of Medicine, an independent national scientific advisory group, estimates nearly 20 percent of all serious motor vehicle accidents are associated with driver sleepiness. It places the direct medical cost of our collective sleep debt at tens of billions of dollars. The loss in terms of work productivity are even higher. Then there are the softer costs—the damaged or lost relationships, the jobs tired people don't have the energy to apply for, the muting of enjoy ment in life's pleasures.

Feeling drowsy yet?  As important as sleep is, don't spend too much time trying to figure out why you need it:

At Stanford University I visited William Dement, the retired dean of sleep studies, a co-discoverer of REM sleep, and co-founder of the Stanford Sleep Medicine Center. I asked him to tell me what he knew, after 50 years of research, about the reason we sleep. "As far as I know," he answered, "the only reason we need to sleep that is really, really solid is because we get sleepy."

On that note, I wish you good sleep over the weekend, and lot's of it. What better way to get ready for another week.

(hat tip: Kottke)