It doesn't take a rocket scientist – or a somnologist – to figure out that sleep impacts our health. What many of us don't know, is just how many different aspects of our functioning sleep can affect. "It's not just diabetes, it's not just heart disease; it's memory, learning, depression, mood," says Kristen Knutson, a National Sleep Foundation poll scholar and assistant professor of medicine at University of Chicago. "There's a huge effect of sleep across the board for us, throughout our lives."
We aren't yet able to calculate the perfect amount of sleep for each person, but studies have shown that seven to eight hours of quality rest is likely the sweet spot. In order to achieve optimum sleep, Knutson says people should do their best to stick to a sleep schedule, shut down electronics well before bedtime, and recognize that sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.
According to one study, people who went 17 to 19 hours without sleep performed as badly or worse on tests than when they had a blood alcohol content of 0.05 percent. Their response speeds during testing were reduced by up to 50 percent in some cases and their accuracy scores were significantly worse than when they had drunk. Furthermore, Knutson says that people are generally not very good at assessing how impaired we are by sleep loss. In sleep studies, she has found no relationship between how people say they feel and how they perform on tests.
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