Getting enough quality sleep is key to health, performance and longevity, international sleep expert James B. Mass told faculty and staff at WKU on Wednesday.
In one of three campus presentations, Dr. Maas said that 75 percent of us experience sleep problems at least three times a week and that getting even one more hour of sleep a night “can literally change your behavior overnight.”
Dr. Maas, a faculty member at Cornell University for 48 years, is the author of Sleep to Win! and Sleep for Success. He also spoke to WKU coaches and athletics personnel and was the featured speaker at Freshman Assembly.
Dr. Maas said many people, including students, say there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that’s necessary, so they treat sleep as a luxury.
“So where do we cheat? We cheat our sleep and we can’t afford to do that,” he said. “It is my hypothesis, and that of my colleagues, that if you get adequate sleep, you will be in a better mood, more efficient, more effective and you’ll have time left over.”
Even moderate sleep deprivation can cause a host of health problems from moodiness to anxiety to depression.
“The quantity and quality of your sleep in large measure determines the success of your waking life,” he said, adding it is also the best predictor of how long you’re going to live.
Getting adequate sleep helps in the transfer of information from short-term to long-term memory, helps the body repair itself, increases the production of melatonin, helps maintain healthy weight and can increase the body’s resistance to infection.
Dr. Maas offered four suggestions for improving sleep.
First, determine the need-for-sleep requirement. Most people require 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep a night while those in their teens to mid 20s need 9.25 hours. He said studies show that students who get nine hours of sleep have significantly higher grade-point averages than those who only get six.
Second, establish a regular sleep/wake schedule by going to bed and waking at the same time every day. “We have only one biological clock, not one for the work week and one for the weekend,” Dr. Maas said.
Third, get one long continuous block of sleep, not an hour here and there. While it is normal to wake during the night, you should be able to go back to sleep in less than 20 minutes, he said.
Factors that disrupt continuous sleep include caffeine, stress, nicotine and alcohol. Also, avoid electronics such as televisions and computers for at least an hour before bedtime. “All of these electronics put out a lot of blue daylight spectrum light which block melatonin so when you turn out the light, you can’t go to sleep for another 30 to 45 minutes,” he said.
Fourth, set the stage for a good night’s sleep by making the bedroom a peaceful place that is quiet, cool, dark and uncluttered.