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Thomas Edison and the Cult of Sleep Deprivation - Olga Khazan - The Atlantic


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For some, sleep loss is a badge of honor, a sign that they don’t require the eight-hour biological reset that the rest of us softies do. Others feel that keeping up with peers requires sacrifice at the personal level—and at least in the short-term, sleep is an invisible sacrifice.

Edison popularized sleep deprivation as conducive to productivity, but he was wrong:

You don’t need Arianna Huffington to tell you that most adults should sleep seven to nine hours per night, but they don’t. A 2010 CDC survey of more than 15,000 adults found that 30 percent of workers sleep six or fewer hours a day. And although sleep deprivation is particularly common among those who work graveyard shifts, traditional, but long, working hours can also be a problem. A2009 study of British civil servants found that those who worked more than 55 hours a week, compared with 35 to 40 hours, were nearly twice as likely to be short on sleep.

Sleep loss is most common among older workers (ages 30 to 64), and among those who earn littleand work multiple jobs. Still, about a quarter of people in the top income quintile report regularly being short on sleep, and sleep deprivation across all income groups has been rising over the years. A group of sleep researchers recently told the BBCthat people are now getting one or two hours less shut-eye each night than they did 60 years ago, primarily because of the encroachment of work into downtime and the proliferation of blue-light emitting electronics.

"We are the supremely arrogant species; we feel we can abandon four billion years of evolution and ignore the fact that we have evolved under a light-dark cycle,” Oxford University Professor Russell Foster said. "And long-term, acting against the clock can lead to serious health problems."

These problems include well-documented correlations with heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and accidents. A March study published in the  Journal of Neuroscience found that long-term sleep loss was associated with permanent brain damage in rats.

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