“Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”

Who among us doesn’t know the first line to that classic poem? We assume all in the house are enjoying a good night’s sleep before the excitement of the day to follow begins, but I saw an interview with a fascinating scientist, who should have us thinking about what is a “good night’s sleep.”

Dr. Matthew Walker is making the rounds touting his new book, “Why We Sleep.” His website, www.sleepdiplomat.com, describes him this way:

“Dr. Walker earned his degree in neuroscience from Nottingham University, UK, and his PhD in neurophysiology from the Medical Research Council, London, UK. He subsequently became a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Currently, he is professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also the founder and director of the Center for Human Sleep Science. Dr. Walker’s research examines the impact of sleep on human health and disease.”

In my many years, I have come to realize that if I don’t get enough sleep, a headache will be the result. Because my "lack of sleep" headaches have always been quite manageable, I never gave them much thought. I now know there are far more serious ramifications to not getting at least seven hours worth of sleep nightly.

I’m sure like many of you, who have reached a certain age, I am experiencing a decline in memory. What I didn’t know is that lack of enough sleep each night has been scientifically proven to have a direct bearing on our memory capabilities. And that’s not all.

One reviewer of the book states lack of sleep "has been making me stupider, fatter, unhappier, poorer, sicker, worse at sex, as well as more likely to get cancer, Alzheimer’s and to die in a car crash."

While his attempt at humor is admirable, the epidemic of sleep deprivation in this country is no laughing matter.

The good news is the problem is easily fixed, which might be the reason Dr. Walker himself puts a comical spin on it at the beginning of the book stating, “Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory, makes you more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed and less anxious. Are you interested?”

All kidding aside, research has proven serious health problems caused (if not totally, at least in part) by a lack of sleep include higher rates of depression, anxiety, dementia, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer, heart attack and stroke.

There is so much more to this story. I urge you to check out Dr. Walker and his new book.

Meanwhile, “Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night.”

Wendy J. Levenfeld is a published novelist, playwright and columnist from Chesterton. Send comments to wendylevenfeld@gmail.com. The opinions are the writer’s.

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