inactivity, links suggested by Charlotte A.
Schoenborn, M.P.H., and Patricia F. Adams
at the Division of Health Interview Statistics,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
Atlanta. (“Sleep Duration as a Correlate of
Smoking, Alcohol Use, Leisure-Time Physical
Inactivity, and Obesity Among Adults: United
States, 2004-2006” at www.cdc.gov.)
ALARM CLOCKWORK ORANGE
Though the amount of sleep one needs
varies with age, Dr. Gregory Belenky,
research professor and director, Sleep
and Performance Research Center,
Washington State University, Spokane,
Wash., says, ideally, we need eight hours of
actual sleep for optimal performance. This
means slightly longer time in bed, say, eight
and a half hours, to account for time to fall
asleep as well as nighttime awakenings.
getting a good night’s sleep seems to be
a gargantuan task. According to statistics
from the Institute of Medicine of the
National Academies, Washington, D.C.,
50-70 million Americans suffer from a
chronic sleep disorder. Thirty-five to 40%
of us either report trouble falling asleep or
daytime sleepiness; and 20% of adults say
they just don’t get enough sleep, according
to the American Academy of Sleep
Medicine, Darien, Ill.
WHO’S GOT RHYTHM?
Cheswick works 15-16 hours a day. He
gets up at 6 a.m., and says he gets “a solid
four or five hours” each night, starting
work at 9 a.m. and not stopping until
midnight or 1 a.m., six days a week.
So why, if he has more time to sleep,
Not enough sleep affects the entire brain, with
cognitive performance suffering across the
board, Belenky points out. If you sleep fewer
than four hours a night, your performance
will get steadily worse over time. On the
other hand, if you sleep between four and
seven hours, your performance will eventually
stabilize at a different, and lower, level. You
won’t be doing your best, but you probably
won’t know it and will feel like you’re doing
fine. “In the end, most people trade peak
performance for more hours awake,” he says.
“Most people get less than seven hours,
with the average being at or above six,”
“A lot of chefs could suffer from sleep apnea,”
Belenky says, referring to a physical condition
caused by partial compression of the airways.
The amount one actually sleeps seems to
divide itself by ethnicity and sex. European-American women get the most sleep;
African-American males get the least.
For those suffering from sleep apnea,
sleep starts and stops repeatedly, resulting
in increases in heart rate, blood pressure
and sleep arousal. A bed partner will hear
gasping for breath and choking, and notice
momentary breathing cessations.
Like Hercules cleaning out the stables and
Atlas raising the world on his shoulders,
“Three risk factors for sleep apnea are
being male, being older (40s, 50s, 60s)
and being overweight,” Belenky says.
Belenky explains that Cheswick’s inability
to sleep more than four or five hours could
stem from the fact that, even though he
is doing the right things, around 6 a.m.,
nature is waking him up. Circadian rhythms,
a self-contained internal hormonal clock
that regulates itself on a roughly 24-hour
cycle, plays a role in body temperature,
performance and the ability to fall asleep,
Belenky explains. It’s easiest to sleep when
body temperatures are low, hard to sleep
when they rise. Body temperature is lowest
between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m., the best time
for sleep. After that, temperatures start
to rise again, making sleep more difficult.
Circadian rhythms also take a brief dip,
lowering body temperature, in the late
afternoon, around 4 p.m., making this a
good time for a catnap.
Meanwhile, body temperatures rise again
during the period between 6 p.m. and