In lots of cases we’ve mentioned lost sleep, interrupted sleep, etc. when discussing clients’ damages.
But we treated it like an inconvenience rather than a major component of damages. It’s becoming clear that it’s a lot bigger issue.
Poor sleep means poor recovery and sub-optimal athletic performance. Poor sleep is also going to affect performance at work, in relationships, etc.
Healthy sleep isn’t just about getting enough sleep, it’s also about getting quality sleep. Quality sleep has a number of components: (1) sleep cycles, (2) number of disturbances, (3) efficiency and (4) latency.
There are four main stages of sleep:
- Slow Wave Sleep (SWS), also known as deep sleep, is the time when your muscles repair and grow.
- REM Sleep is the mentally restorative stage of sleep. During REM Sleep, ideas and skills acquired during the day are processed into memories.
- Light Sleep represents the physiological process taken to transition to deep sleep.
- Wake is included as a sleep stage because it is natural to be awake for brief periods throughout the night.
Most adults should spend about half of their time (asleep) in REM and SWS (deep sleep).
Not getting enough sleep has some very objective (and very negative) impacts:
Cardiovascular Health. Losing an hour of sleep can have a pretty dire effect on your heart. Daylight savings time affects 1.6 billion people across 70 countries. When we spring forward (and lose an hour of sleep) there’s a 24-percent increase in heart attacks that following day. When we fall back (and gain an hour) there’s a 21-percent reduction in heart attacks. (And there are virtually identical statistics for car wrecks and even suicide.)
Testosterone and Aging. A 40-year-old man who sleeps four to five hours a night has testosterone levels of a 50-year-old. Lack of sleep effectively adds 10 years to a man’s chronological age. (Women suffer similar impacts to their reproductive health caused by a lack of sleep.)
Cancer, etc. The immune system utilizes “natural killer cells.” They’re the sicarios of our immune system. They are identifying threats (like cancer cells) and eliminate them. But the sicarios are sensitive to sleep. If you only get four hours of sleep their activity level drops by 70 percent. The World Health Organization classifies nighttime shift work as a probable carcinogen.
Memory. You need sleep after learning to save new information. You also need sleep before learning to prepare your brain to absorb new information.
Drowning in its Own Waste. The brain has a metabolic waste collection system. It’s called the“Glymphatic” system. The thing is, it only works when you get into deep sleep. If you’re not achieving deep sleep—or getting enough deep sleep—the brain is not eliminating metabolic waste.
Accelerated Dementia. Poor sleep and dementia are not just co-occurring in older people. They’re interrelated. Disrupted deep sleep is a contributes to cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
To what kind of cases does this apply? I think every case.
Physical injuries interfere with sleep. They make it harder to get to sleep and more difficult to stay asleep.
I’m a side sleeper. After I broke my pelvis I had to sleep on my back. I hated it. It was a process to get comfortable enough to go to sleep. And once I was able to go to sleep, I’d invariably try to roll over on my side only to wake up again.
Concussions also affect sleep. It’s an unfortunate irony that an injury to the brain prevents the brain from receiving the best medicine: deep sleep.
There are a lot of sleep medications. And while they put people to sleep, they don’t produce the type of restorative sleep that we need.
It doesn’t seem like a lot of doctors are tuned in to this issue. If they are, they don’t really emphasize its importance. We’re going to find doctors who do and make sure that sleep receives the attention it deserves in personal injury cases.