Professor and past chairman of the Department of Psychology, Cornell University
Keynote presenter for major corporations worldwide including the Young Presidents Organization, Marriott, IBM, Apple Computer, Eastman Kodak, etc.
Appeared on NBC Nightly News, ABC's 20/20, NBC's Today, Good Morning America, The Oprah Winfrey Show
B.A., Williams College; M.A. and Ph.D.,Cornell University
Dr. James Maas: Fight Cancer in Your Sleep!
Dr. James Maas is a pioneer in the field of sleep. For over 35 years, he has conducted on-going research on the psychophysiology of sleep. He explores sleep and the connection to health and the human body.
Dr Maas asks: Do you need an alarm clock in order to wake up in the morning? Do you hit the snooze button a few times before finally getting out of bed? Do you sleep extra hours on the weekend? If so, consider yourself one of millions of chronically sleep-deprived people. In the last century we have reduced our sleep time by 20 percent, and this has serious consequences. At least 63 million American adults are moderately to severely sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation costs America more than 100 billion dollars annually. Nearly every high school and college student is seriously sleep deprived; they need 9 1/2 hours of sleep to be fully alert, yet average six. Forty million Americans suffer from one or more of the 81 known sleep disorders. We have become a nation of walking zombies.
Many people assume they are good sleepers when they fall asleep immediately when they get into bed. This is a sure indication of sleep deprivation. The well-rested person takes 15 to 20 minutes to fall asleep.
When you don’t get adequate sleep, you’re likely to experience:
Daytime drowsiness and unintended sleep episodes
Increased risk for hypertension, heart attacks, stroke and diabetes
Reduced immunity to disease and viral infection
Reduced productivity and the ability to concentrate and remember
Reduced creativity, vocabulary and communications skills
If that isn’t convincing enough, new studies show that chronic sleep deprivation is one of the biggest predictors of obesity. Your quantity and quality of sleep, in part, dictates the hormonal activity linked to your appetite. Two hormones, leptin and ghrelin control hunger. When you are sleep deprived leptin levels drop dramatically and ghrelin levels rise causing voracious appetites. Such over eating can cause obesity. This explains what doctors have been seeing for decades—people who are chronically sleep deprived often find themselves putting on weight. People who sleep six hours a night are 23 percent more likely to be obese than those sleeping seven to nine hours per night. Making sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep would keep you away from the refrigerator and help you maintain your weight.
One study found that too little sleep causes viral infections to rise. In another, sleep researchers tested people who only get 6 hours of sleep at night, which is what 70 percent of what the population at large gets. They found an increase in cytokines that invade and eat the heart. This means that chronic sleep deprivation slowly weakens your heart and heightens your chances of suffering from a heart attack.
So much evidence pointing the importance of sleep should alert us to the consequences of too little sleep. Unfortunately, we don’t value sleep in our society. We fail to recognize the nearly linear relationship between sleep deprivation and daytime alertness. It takes one hour of sleep to produce two hours of wakefulness. And after 15.8 hours of wakefulness our cognitive abilities are dramatically reduced. In fact, when 8 hour sleepers increase their sleep by one hour there is a 25 percent increase in alertness.
SLEEP, CANCER AND OBESITY
Dr. Maas says we do not understand the need for sleep and the consequences of sleep deprivation. He says the human body has limits as to what it can endure without rest and sadly most of us are grossly exceeding those limits. In fact, 74% sleep less than the recommended eight hours during the work week which makes us moderately to seriously sleep deprived. Sleep loss is cumulative and it can have devastating effects. Some of the reasons he cites for a sleep deprivation crisis in America include: a workaholic society, numerous distractions (like late-nite TV and the internet), and a 24/7 society. Sleep is a necessity, not a luxury.
Dr. Maas says new studies show that how well you sleep may determine how well your body fights cancer. Sleep problems affect two hormones that influence cancer cells. One is cortisol which regulates the immune system and releases certain natural killer cells that help the body battle cancer. Cortisol levels typically peak at dawn, after hours of sleep and decline through the day. Cortisol is the stress hormone triggered during times of anxiety and may play a role in the development and worsening of cancer and other illnesses. The other hormone is melatonin which is produced by the brain during sleep. Melatonin may have antioxidant properties that help prevent damage to cells that lead to cancer.
Many of us have been sleepy for such a long time that we don’t know what it’s like to feel wide awake. Only when we’re exhausted and/or fall asleep at inappropriate times are we seriously reminded of the body’s fundamental need for sleep.
“If you sleep more on weekends, need an alarm clock or can easily fall asleep within 5 minutes, you are sleep deprived,” says Dr. Maas.
The process of sleep restores, rejuvenates, and energizes the body and brain. Sleeping has profound effects on your life in terms of alertness, energy, mood, body weight, perception, memory, thinking, reaction time, productivity, performance, communication skills, creativity, safety and good health.
Dr. Maas says there are 4 golden rules for a great night’s sleep. Determine your sleep requirement and meet it every night, maintain a regular sleep/wake schedule, get continuous sleep and make up for lost sleep (power nap). Try avoiding sleeping pills. If you are still having trouble falling asleep, consider the following:
. Reduce stress as much as possible. Stress is one of the most common reasons for insomnia. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Remember, it’s all small stuff. A relaxed person sleeps well.
. Exercise to stay fit. Exercise reduces blood pressure and your blood pressure reaction to stress as well as lower tension and anxiety.
. Eat properly. Healthy people sleep better. Eating proteins at your evening meal will prevent hunger pangs at night. Dr. Maas cautions not to overeat within four to five hours of going to bed.
. Maintain a relaxing atmosphere in the bedroom. Condition yourself to associate the bedroom with pleasure and rest, not stress and tension. Avoid watching violent or exciting programs in the bedroom.
. Try some relaxation techniques: Counting sheep: it actually works. You literally bore yourself to sleep; Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR): tense then relax muscles in groups, starting with your toes and work up to eye muscles and forehead. Squeeze tightly for five to ten seconds then relax for fifteen to twenty; Imagine yourself in a relaxing situation, like on a beach or in the warm sun.
As Seen on The Club
- Lite Book: full-spectrum light to help with jet lag, SAD [Seasonal Affective Disorder], and other sleep cycle abnormalities. Available through Litebook’s website: www.litebook.com or toll free: 1-877-723-5483.
- Power Sleep Power Nap Clock: available through Dr. Maas’ website, www.powersleep.org
- Recordable Fire Alarm: available through Amazon.com, at True Value Hardware Stores, and other retail outlets.
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