Dr. Oz: The Dangers of Exhaustion
March 26, 2012
Once upon a time, you could sleep like a baby. Now you’d be lucky to get a full eight hours of peaceful, uninterrupted slumber.
Here’s how to rest easy again.
As a father of four, a surgeon, and a talk show host, I know all about sleepless nights. More than 25 years ago, when I was a surgical resident, I conditioned myself to get by on just two or three hours of sleep a night. I can recall walking down an empty hospital corridor after a long shift and seeing the sun rising silently over the city. I often had trouble drifting off when I got home—and continued to have insomnia even after my residency ended.
I wasn’t alone. Nearly half of all Americans have occasional insomnia, whether because of stress, hormonal changes, or poor bedtime habits; about 15 percent are plagued by chronic sleeplessness.
And that’s a problem. Waking up exhausted doesn’t just take a toll on your mood and your performance at work; inadequate sleep can lead to serious health problems—including obesity, cancer, and heart disease—and shortened life expectancy. While you’re sleeping, your body rejuvenates the connections between brain cells, renews its immune function, improves the response to insulin, and secretes growth hormone, which is essential for healthy skin and muscles. People who sleep fewer than six hours a night have a 50 percent higher risk of viral infections and an elevated risk of heart disease and stroke. A new study even suggests that a lack of sleep heightens your risk of Alzheimer’s.
That said, insomnia isn’t something to lose sleep over; plenty of simple strategies can help you get the rest you need. I’ve put together this four-week plan to ensure you sleep better and longer, starting tonight.