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Opening monologue: sleep

Opening monologue from 8/19/17 Saturday Night Special on WGN Radio (listen):

Tonight on the program we’re talking about a subject that most of us want more of, few of us are getting enough of, and something that can have a bigger impact on our health and well-being than most of us realize: sleep.

According to the Center for Disease Control, adults need at least 7 hours of shut-eye per night on average, but more than a third of American adults are simply not sleeping enough. And, it’s no wonder, right? In our contemporary world of hyper connectivity, corporate golden handcuffs that keep us working longer hours, 24-hour news cycles, fret about world events, screen time’s impact on circadian rhythms, and workplace and family demands, it’s no surprise at all we aren’t getting the rest we need.

But, not getting enough sleep is, pretty literally, killing us– with the medical community drawing very short lines between lack of sleep and depression, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.

According to the International journal of occupational medicine and environmental health, even 24 hours of sleep deprivation is on par with the cognitive impairment of having a blood-alcohol content of .10 percent– which is more than the legal limit for driving. Then, at 36 hours with too-little sleep, high levels of inflammation start to show up in the bloodstream, which, over time can lead to heart disease and high blood pressure and a whole slew of other things. And that’s just the physical. Look for psychological effects of sleep deprivation and even cursory research quickly points to impaired memory and attention spans, lack of attention to detail, problem-solving skills, reduced ability to reason, and triggers for mental health conditions, not to mention that in simplest terms, sleepy brains just have to work harder than well-rested ones.

Also, according to a 2013 collaboration of very smart sleep researchers, when we conk out asleep, the brain doesn’t just switch off, but, instead, a series of highly orchestrated things occur allowing the brain to reset, store memories, and clean out all the extraneous toxins and other junk that build up in the waking hours, like taking out the trash and putting away the dishes. No sleep? That brain junk is gonna pile up. And, I don’t think any of us want that.

So, tonight, we’ll look at why we should take sleep far more seriously than we do, why we should pay way more attention to making sure we get plenty of quality sleep and why, a look at some of the more curious things our brains do while we sleep, and take a look at attitudes held around the world about sleep and throughout history.

We’ll be joined by a University of Illinois professor and director at the university’s sleep science center Dr. Bha-rati Prassad to talk about the physical processes at work when we sleep– with Dr. Melissa Melby about sleep practices aroud the world, and with filmmaker Rodney Ascher about the film both Vulture and Indie Wire writers described as one of the most terrifying they’d seen– a documentary about sleep paralysis.

As ever, we have a lot to do, a lot to discuss and a lot to learn tonight, and I want to make sure we give our very wise guests plenty of time to share what they know, but if we have time, 312-981-7200– and esteemed producer Tom Hush will be the voice on the other end of the line or you can find me on twitter and tweet about your sleep habits and questions there.

We’ll be right back to get this conversation underway, on 720-WGN.