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The best part of waking up - a good night's sleep

Lack of Sleep on the Campaign Trail

You don’t have to be an expert in politics to know that the last two years of the presidential candidates’ lives have been a whirlwind.

As they attend rallies, debates and other media opportunities, they stint on one of life’s undeniable essentials: sleep. And it shows. Getting fewer than 7 hours of sleep on consecutive nights can lead to sleep “debt.”

Sleep debt produces irritability and cognitive impairment. People get snappish and the ability to think, respond and reason are all diminished.

Perhaps sleep debt is why candidates on the campaign trail make so many verbal blunders from the amusing (McCain’s “I’m a conservative liberal Republican” and Obama’s “Israel is a strong friend of Israel’s”), to the alarming (McCain’s reference to the nonexistent “Iraq-Pakistan border” and Obama’s “57 states”).

Not only candidates but also average Americans keep schedules that are  simply exhausting. In fact, over the past century, the amount of sleep that Americans get has decreased by 20 percent.

Because of advances in technology, we now live in a 24/7 society. Cable television and the Internet are available 24 hours a day. Workers carry Blackberry devices and are accessible to their employers on nights and weekends. Kids stay up texting their friends. It’s as though we’ve all adopted a “campaign trail” schedule.

Lack of sleep has many serious effects including:

  • Driver fatigue and a 20 percent increase in car crashes
  • Impaired judgment, cognitive speed, spatial orientation and motor function
  • Obesity
  • Depressed mood, poor memory and difficulty concentrating.

As the election approaches, I’ll be blogging on about sleep deprivation symptoms that I’ve observed the candidates demonstrating along the campaign trail. It’s my hope that by doing so, we’ll all come to realize the signs of sleep deprivation more easily, and will adjust our schedules to make sure we’re getting the proper rest we need to avoid sounding like an exhausted  presidential nominee. I’ll provide tips that the candidates, and you, can use to work proper sleep habits into busy schedules. This will help you to avoid embarrassing goofs, but it’s also critical if you want to keep yourself in good health.

- Dr. Carol Ash