The more we learn about how the human body functions, the better off we are, even though the amount of new information can sometimes be exhausting. And speaking of exhausting, we now have further confirmations that we Canadians need more sleep than we’re getting.
Perhaps it’s a consequence of living in a wealthy country where there’s so much to do: sports, hobbies, leisure time, nice houses and large yards to care for, kids to chauffeur hither and yon (and their many activities), perhaps even longer hours for larger paycheques.
Whatever the reason, it appears that we are too busy to get all the sleep we need. And therein lies the trap. The effects of insufficient sleep don’t show up immediately. They simmer and slowly erode functions that we take for granted.
Postmedia News reports that recent research is confirming that not enough sleep diminishes physical and mental health. It is a cause of cancer, obesity, metabolic disorders and cardiovascular disease.
It contributes to, or is the cause of, short- and long-term memory loss, lack of attention (missing a red light) or a short attention span (not following the plot of a movie), and a suppressed immune system, eroding our ability to ward off common colds, flu bugs and other “minor” ailments.
(And we shouldn’t overlook dental care here: the link between poor dental hygiene and overall physical health is well established. Ditto for eyes, as per a Page B1 feature in The Daily News on Monday, which is why annual or biennial eye exams are important. Ocular issues can indicate life-threatening tumours or even multiple sclerosis.)
According to psychologist Reut Gruber, who is the director of the attention, behaviour and sleep lab at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute in Montreal, 25 per cent of adults do not get enough sleep or have chronic insomnia.
People who deal with issues such as sleep apnea, insomnia (or mid-sleep insomnia) and other conditions that rob them of adequate sleep are usually forced to find ways to cope.
But people who don’t have serious, recognizable conditions, yet are routinely sleep-deprived, are making do with lower batting averages in the World Series of Life.
That’s a bad mistake, suggests Gruber, who chairs the Canadian Sleep Society. She takes issue with the erroneous assumption that sleep is a waste of time, or that we have more important things to do.
"Sleep feels like it's something we can give up when we have other competing priorities," she said. Rather, she adds, Canadians need to make adequate sleep a high priority — as high as eating well and exercising.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, editor Robert Koopmans, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.