Miles O'Brien

Reporting on space, science, aviation & tech.

Archive: Nov 2012

  1. “I’ll Sleep When I am Dead” and other Myths

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    Me at FL 370 on Virgin America flight 366 from LAX to BOS on November 14, 2012.

    I really should be asleep right now. I am on a Red Eye at 37,000 feet – somewhere between LA and Boston. I only got five hours of sleep last night; obligations late last night and early this morning.

    This is not an unusual sequence of events in most of our lives. We over-program our days, and when push comes to shove, we trim our sleep time in order to fit it all in. We might think we are doing the right thing by trying to max out our waking moments, after all, we will all “sleep when we are dead.”

    But there is a huge stack of evidence we are hastening the arrival of our dirt nap by burning the candles at both ends. Our illusory quest to push the sleep envelope makes us fatter, sicker, sadder, stupider and, ultimately less long-lived.

    But how much sleep do we need? It depends. Some folks need more than others. Eight hours may be a good number to aim for, but not for everyone. If you are routinely awakened by an iPhone Marimba or other alarming requests for consciousness, and cannot really function until you have tossed back a grande latte, you are clearly not getting enough shuteye. But we all know that.