Sleep is key to making sound decisions and the most critical factor in good health, Army Surgeon General Patricia D. Horoho said Oct. 22 at the Annual Meeting and Exposition of the Association of the United States Army.
“We trade hours of sleep for mindless channel surfing, Facebooking, tweeting, and working long hours,” Lt. Gen. Horoho said. “We honestly think there’s no cost involved in doing that...we couldn’t be more wrong.”
“Nothing good is going to happen without sleep... your body can go longer without food than it can without sleep,” she said.
Noting that it is during sleep that learning takes place and memories are consolidated, Horoho said without adequate sleep – generally 7 hours a night – both are at risk of being lost.
Decision-making is similarly damaged without sufficient sleep, she said.
“Sleepy people make really poor decisions,” which can mean, oversight, mistakes, or catastrophe. Recent studies, Horoho reported, show that sleeping fewer than six hours for six days in a row impairs thinking as much as being legally intoxicated.
Someone who gets fewer than six hours, she added, is “not the surgeon I want operating in my operating room, it’s not the person I want driving my children to school, and it’s not the soldier I want at a checkpoint that is making that critical decision of friend or foe.”
Horoho noted that exposure to artificial light depresses the release of sleep hormones, making it more difficult to fall asleep. She urged her audience to get rid of all blinking lights in their bedrooms, whether TVS, chargers, cell phones, or computers. What will promote sleep, she said, are things like relaxation tapes and yoga.