“There is only one thing people like that is good for them; a good night’s sleep.” – Edgar Watson Howe (1853 – 1937)
Editor-In-Chief, Chester “Trip” Buckenmaier III, MD, COL, MC, USA
E.W. Howe was wise well beyond his time. This spring, as I mark another birthday that has placed me way on the wrong side of 40, I note with frustration that all the things I like seem to be unhealthy. Like so many middle-aged Americans, I fight a continuous battle with the things I love.
My status as a carnivore is constantly under threat due to weight and cholesterol numbers that are not fit to print. I often think Bugs Bunny would be more interested in my lunch than I am, as I crunch another carrot rather than a beloved potato chip. I love working in the yard and chopping wood for home heating, but my back regularly reminds me that I am not 18 anymore. My knees and shoulders protest ever more loudly after a long day of sailing.
I enjoy my work as an academic writer, although the hours spent at a computer do nothing positive for my expanding “bottom” line. I am fortunate to be free of tobacco, though I understand the allure. I work to keep alcohol in moderation, though many weekend parties in our neighborhood can make that a challenge.
In short, I have my share of unhealthy vices and quote with pride Mark Twain, who stated, “I haven’t a particle of confidence in a man who has no redeeming petty vices.” Sadly, I must admit, those prized vices come at such a greater cost now than when I was much younger.
Howe must have had me in mind when he turned his phrase on sleep. I do enjoy a full night’s rest, although I, like so many federal medicine providers, find getting a full night of sleep an elusive goal. My days are necessarily long, and the issues of three healthy teenage girls make bedtime a moving target. I begin every morning at 0500 hrs, rising early to either exercise or rush off to work when I am seeing patients, which puts me in the “six or less hours of sleep a night” club.
According to a Harvard Health Publications press release on the importance of sleep, 75% of Americans have sleep difficulties a few nights every week.1 Chronic sleep deprivation is gaining increasing attention within the medical community as the list grows of health problems associated with sleep loss. The Harvard Health Publication listed six health-related areas that were negatively impacted by sleep of less than six hours nightly, including reduced cognition, poor metabolism leading to weight gain, attention deficits leading to accidents, irritability, increased stress and impaired immune function.