Friday, September 15, 2006

Sleeping Our Way to a Healthier America

I read this article in a fitness magazine yesterday that linked increased sleep to weight loss. Basically, it stated that people who sleep more tend to have lower body fat, lower BMI and better general health than those who do not. They gave a variety of reasons ranging form late-night snacking to sleep helping to produce enzymes that assist in carbohydrate metabolism, and also pointed out that people who are active tend to sleep better than those who are not. And while nobody would argue that that sleeping 8-10 hours a night is better for you than the bed-at-12, up-at-5:30 lifestyle many Americans lead, it was nice to see my philosophy of sleep priority being validated.

So I mention this study to the girl I’ve been seeing, since she had been complaining about sleeping too much this week. Surprisingly, she was not happy. “Yeah, well, I mean maybe it’s good for my health, but I fee like I’m getting nothing done.” This attitude, my friends, may be exactly what is wrong with America. Why we are so fat, why we are so stressed, why nobody here is ever happy. Everyone here is focused on working and being “productive” and “getting things done,” and never stops to think that there are things more important than work. This leads to a lifestyle where we take 10 minutes for lunch so we wolf down a whopper and fries, don’t cook a real dinner, don’t get to the gym enough and don’t sleep. That is a perfect recipe for obesity and diabetes.

There are more important things in life than making money and working hard. Things like health, for instance. Things like physical fitness and not letting your kids become little basketballs. When you need to “stay late” at your job because you feel pressured to be productive (aka make More Money for the company) you can’t make your kids a proper nutritious dinner. So what do they get? Pizza Hut. Or KFC. Or something equally disgusting coming out of a can. You may even forgo involving them in physical activities like sports or dance because you just don’t have time to take them there. So instead they sit at home on MySpace and X-Box and get fatter and fatter and fatter.

Sleep, exercise and proper nutrition should always trump “productivity.” But nobody in America will ever sit back and say “I want my employees to be healthier, so I am mandating nobody come in before 8 or stay after 5. And everyone must take 1 hour for lunch.” Not everyone would take advantage, of course, but I think as a whole we’d all be a lot better off if we stopped focusing so much on being productive and spent a little more time thinking about being healthy. Me, I sleep 9-10 hours a night, on average, and work out for about 2. This, of course, is for nights when I don’t go out. And I believe this is a big part of why I get sick about once every 3 years, am rarely sore from anything, don’t really get hangovers, and can be in better shape than 90% of the population while subsisting on a diet of pizza and chocolate chip cookies. Rip me if you like for being lazy, but I guarantee I actually do more physical activity than most people I know. I am just more motivated by looking and feeling good than I am about “being productive.”

I think in the long run, a greater focus on health and wellness would actually benefit the economy. Less time lost for sick days, less money spent on health insurance and happier employees. But it is a pipe dream. I love capitalism, but unrelenting devotion to immediate profit is its major flaw. But that is the American way, isn’t it? Work as hard as you can as much as you can so you can get more stuff than the other guy. Of course, for our generation, “stuff’ most likely means a massive gut, fat kids and diabetes.


At 1:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn right. I just read yesterday that it is estimated that 1 out of 5 kids will be obese by 2010 if we continue on the same trajectory we're on now. Obesity is becoming a major problem all over the world and has overtaken smoking as the biggest preventable killer of Americans.
We all need to make getting healthier, getting thinner, getting more sleep and lowering stress a huge national priority, both publicly and privately.

At 1:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let them be. Thin out the heard. This country is overpopulated anyways. Besides, we'll all be Mexico's problem in 20 years.

At 2:16 PM, Anonymous Florida Hater said...

For someone who is unintersted in having kids, you sure do talk about them a lot.

Fat people love Florida.

At 2:20 PM, Anonymous Playtah said...

Right on, WD. Can you please run for office?

At 2:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Florida hater

At 2:46 PM, Blogger minijonb said...

i'm training for the U.S. Olympic Sleep Team. i was cut from the Dodgeball team, so this might be my last chance to make it to China in 2008.

At 4:22 PM, Blogger Johnny said...

GREAT post. I've been considering quitting my job basically since I began it because it's too stressful for what I'm getting paid for it, and I don't see myself doing this work in the long run. American workers have the least vacation time in the ENTIRE WORLD. So, we may be "productive", but that's only helping the top 5% of earners. That productivity doesn't go into our pockets. Young workers are making less money relative to inflation than they were 30 years ago.

At 8:31 PM, Blogger imaginaryconversations said...

I just wonder if people are so "productive" and work so hard where all the clueless idiots come from. I think people just waste a lot of time on useless shit (TV, video games, hour-long phone conversations), so they don't sleep, don't work out, and don't do that well at work either.

I agree with anon2: let natural selection do its job. Let those people be fat, die from obesity-related diseases, and let their kids suffer the same fate.

At 11:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, Dade, you are just taking a random study and trying to use it to back up the fact that you like to sleep. Yes, it is healthy to get a decent amount of sleep (7-8 hours or whatever). But if your girlfriend feels that she's sleeping too much and not getting enough done, she probably is sleeping too much.

There is a fine line between getting adequate sleep and thinking that lying around the house is going to help you lose weight.

At 10:38 AM, Blogger Freckle Face Girl said...

Most of the people I have worked with that stay long hours tend to work slower. I have had a few deadlines that require more hours, but people who do it all the time are not more productive.

At 2:50 PM, Blogger Yvette said...

I thought the sleep/weight correlation was interesting, too. I keep reading about it in my Harvard Health newsletter.

January 18, 2006: Warning: Too little sleep poses serious health risk

August 17, 2005: Sleep More, Weigh Less

At 11:29 PM, Anonymous David in DC said...

I am in shape.

Round is a shape.

At 11:54 AM, Blogger Tara said...

Sleep can effect me differently. Sometimes when I have only slept 4 - 6 hours, I'll feel fantastic and in a good mood. Sometimes. Then if I sleep longer sometimes, I'm more tired. Very strange. Anyway, since I have started exercising, it is easier for me to fall asleep faster most nights.

And what is that in the fourth picture down? I can make out bacon, but the rest..well all of it...looks a little gross. :D

At 1:06 PM, Blogger Manola Blablablanik said...

Yeah, the problem is that many people put way too much on their plates and I'm not talking just food. I'm a big believer in restorative naps and shutting down the brain for a little while. It makes you much more productive in the end. Working to live, not living to work.

At 2:38 PM, Blogger alizinha said...

WD's girlfriend sez:
“Yeah, well, I mean maybe [sleep's] good for my health, but I feel like I’m getting nothing DONE.”

I hope she doesn't start saying that about other things that take some time to do right--namely exercise and sex.

At 3:00 PM, Blogger White Dade said...

Anon - Well Put

Anon2 - We'll all be Mexicos's problem? We may al lbe speaking Spainsh, but that is another issue altogether.

FH - No, they love Disneyworld.

Playtah - Yeah, becasue my opinions are soo well-tailored for politics.

Anon3 - That was riveting.

Mini - Good luck with that. I may be your main competition.

Johnny - Yeah. Like I said, America is great ,but we have soem MAJOR problems.

IC - you are absolutely right. It is not that we are actually doing more work. We just have more shit to do (like reading stupid blogs, for example) to waste time.

Anon4 - Lying around the house is lazy. Prioritizing sleep ahead of work is not.

FFG - During my stint in the corpoate world, I was amazed at how people took so long to do stuff I did relatively quickly. I could have worked a 20 hour week and been fine.

Yvette - Those may veery well be the studies they were referencing. It was not listed.

David - I suppose it is.

Tara - It's pizza of some sort. I just used the most isgusting picture I could find.

Manola - Yep. Put perfectly.

Allison - Exercise? Well, she is all aobut doing that but again it has fallen victim to "If I wasn't so tired when I got home form work or had mroe time." Unless you consider kickball exercise. Sex? Don't get me started.

At 10:01 AM, Anonymous Ryan said...

I definitely agree with you here, WD. I'm the same way as you when it comes to health/sleep/diet/exercise. One thing you hinted at is that obesity is a major public health crisis. The amount of money tax payers spend paying for obesity-related health problems in this country is very large.

Adding a point to yours, there's been several studies recently that have linked obesity to urban sprawl. As you mentioned, long hours at work often leave kids stuck at home and parents too rushed or stressed to eat real meals. One of the major factors here, I believe, is the effect of sprawl.

First of all, length and time of work commutes in America are rising fast. This means less sleep and a lot more stress for parents/adults. Moreover, with more people commuting suburb to suburb, the choices for food are usually the typical homogenous, commercial offerings of McDonalds, Quiznos, KFC, etcetera.

Secondly, kids are stuck at home playing X-Box because they live in subdivisions, gated communities, or other sprawling locales where public recreation and transportion are not likely to be available or accessable. Little Johnny can't just walk over to Fredo's house, because the suburban pattern isn't aligned for that. Nor can neighborhood kids (to people in Dade, this does not mean everyone within a 5 mile radius) get together at the local park on their own and be active because they usually live all over the damn place. My point is that kids living in sprawl nowadays have to rely on their parents to bring them to football practice, swimming, dance, the gym, or most other places where exercise other than for the fingers can be conducted.

I could go on for days about this, but I just wanted to say good post while adding a quick point.


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