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Sleep on it

Agriculture.com Staff 07/06/2010 @ 5:02pm

Feeling sleepy? You're not alone. After all, our society coined the catchphrase 24-7. We're always plugged in -- late-night TV, the Internet, iPods. Our night sky is littered with security lights.

Sleep? Maybe later. Or not.

A 2007 survey by the National Sleep Foundation reveals that 60% of women say they sleep well just a few nights or less a week (they average six hours on weeknights). Before the advent of electricity, people slept about nine hours a night.

Although our world and daily activities have evolved, our brains and bodies remain hardwired to primitive circadian rhythms. Sleep as if your life depends upon it. It might.

Fatigue impairs quality of life -- from driving drowsy, to overconsuming caffeine, or being too tired to exercise. Add in a dash of irritability, lack of focus, and even depression.

Sleep influences cardiovascular health through changes in blood pressure, inflammation, blood clotting, blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood vessels. Women who skimp on sleep double their risk of developing high blood pressure.

A sleep deficit can interfere with sugar metabolism and disrupt hormones, ramping up insulin production and type 2 diabetes.

Sleep is linked to obesity, possibly disrupting hormones that govern appetite. A new government study shows that people who sleep less than six hours a night (or more than nine) are more likely to be obese.

Recent research also yields the startling finding that overnight shift work over many years is a probable carcinogen. Higher rates of breast cancer (and prostate cancer) have been found in people who go to work after dark over many years.

Breast cancer incidence has increased dramatically in industrialized countries. Night work may disrupt the body's biological clock. The hormone, melatonin, suppresses tumors. It's normally produced at night, and light shuts it down.

The research has focused on nurses and flight crews, but more study is needed. To learn more, visit the National Sleep Foundation.

Too often, farm kids grow up with the belief that sleeping is the trademark of a lazy person. But many famous people took naps: Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Napolean Bonaparte, to name a few.

So set your to-do list aside and schedule more shut-eye. Sleep isn't indulgent -- it's healthy.

Feeling sleepy? You're not alone. After all, our society coined the catchphrase 24-7. We're always plugged in -- late-night TV, the Internet, iPods. Our night sky is littered with security lights.

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