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New Perspectives on Sleep

People of the world have varying sleep patterns. Most experts agree on the fact of the usefulness of having eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. However, modern life styles at work, home, and social settings have brought many limits on sleep time and recent technological developments have further decreased sleeping hours. About 41 million Americans representing a third of all working adults get less than the prescribed eight hours of sleep. In fact, in a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this portion of the working American population gets six hours or less of sleep per night. The reasons are attributed to a host of factors that prevent them from getting adequate amount of sleep.

A recent article by David K. Randall published at the New York Times (September 22, 2012) highlighted the fact that the eight-hour sleep regimen may not be applicable and there have been other sleeping patterns like taking naps after lunch time as commonly practiced by Chinese workers or a regular lunchtime nap (siesta), which is commonly taken by people in the Middle East, India, and Spain.

Instead of demanding the bodies to conform to the regular eight hours sleeping pattern, what may be more important is getting adequate quality sleep, not just the time spent asleep. Human brain and body might function really well by doing some learning, reflecting, or deep thinking between first and second episodes of sleep, sometime between 12 – 2am. David Randall suggests you do not need to get nervous if you wake up at 1am, and frustrated, because you cannot fall back asleep. He also cites studies confirming better performance lasting for several hours after a 30 – 60-minute nap. He mentions that military is testing this emerging evidence in activities/missions of soldiers; some coaches making arrangements for their players to take naps before games.

People may continue and explore better alternatives to 8 hour one block sleep time, in order to cope with the changing demands of life.

In his book Dreamland, David K. Randall dives into research investigating those dark hours people spend in sleeping. This book shows that sleep isn’t all that simple. The book also offers interesting and practical information about various things that are related to sleep.

You can read the full New York Times article of David K. Randall here.


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