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Gayatri Devi, M.D. Headshot

Sleepless In Seattle? The Effects Of Sleep Deprivation

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Only in the movies would you end up with Meg Ryan if you truly are Sleepless in Seattle. Never mind that you are Tom Hanks.

In real life, Tom never gets to make out with Meg because he is sleep deprived.
As a chronic insomniac, Tom would be...

...Depressed, irritable and angry. When his young son Jonah wants him to call in to a national radio talk show on Christmas Eve, Tom yells at his son. He then stomps off into his bedroom and slams the door, leaving poor Jonah crying. People with insomnia are 10 times more likely to be depressed than people who sleep well.

...Inarticulate and scatter-brained. In the film, where he entrances Meg from Baltimore with his longing for his dead wife, Tom would sound idiotic instead of the poetic, hopelessly romantic, grieving widower he was. Sleep deprivation is associated with trouble finding words and poor concentration.

....Hallucinating. Tom sees visions of his beloved, dead wife and he opts to spend time in bed chatting with her instead of voicing his grief publicly on syndicated airtime. Sleeplessness is associated with psychosis.

...Overweight and unhappy with his looks. Tom does not even think about dating. Sleep deprivation is associated with obesity. Certain nerve cells in your brain's hypothalamus get excited when you are stressed. This makes you stop sleeping and overeat at the same time. Really? Yes, really.

...Lacking in creativity. He loses his job as an architect and can't afford the airfare to meet Meg. Edison and Churchill both relied on restful night-time sleep and day-time naps to invent, win Pulitzer prizes, and run the Nazis out of town.

...in a car accident. Tom has an accident on the way to the airport and poor Jonah is left orphaned. A quarter million motor vehicle accidents a year are attributed to drowsiness. Driving while sleepless is as dangerous as driving while drunk.

... having a heart attack on the airplane. Tom somehow makes it to the flight to New York but dies enroute. Poor Jonah is orphaned after all. Sleep deprivation increases the risk for heart attacks and diabetes. In one small study, 40 percent of patients reported at least two weeks of insomnia before suffering a heart attack. Sleep deprivation reduces glucose tolerance which increases the risk for diabetes which increases risk for heart disease.

....Anxious, so that when he finally meets Meg in the elevator of the Empire State Building, he cannot speak. Maybe Tom is so anxious, he takes the stairs instead and misses out on Meg altogether. Insomniacs are 17 times more anxious than the rest of us.

....Showing poor judgment. He decides Meg isn't the woman of his dreams after all.

So Tom, get some sleep, will ya? Meg's waiting.

References (because some of this stuff is hard to believe- even if you are sleep deprived!):

1. Ephron N (dir). Sleepless in Seattle, with Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan. TriStar Pictures 1993; 105 mins
2. Taylor DJ. Lichstein KL, Durrence HH et al. Epidemiology of insomnia, depression, and anxiety.
Sleep 2005, 28(11):1457-1464

3. J. Backhaus, K. Junghanns, J. Born, K. et al. Impaired Declarative Memory Consolidation During Sleep in Patients With Primary Insomnia: Influence of Sleep Architecture and Nocturnal Cortisol Release. Biological Psychiatry 2006; 60(12):1324-1330

4. Coren S, Sleep Deprivation, Psychosis and Mental Efficiency. Psychiatric Times 1998; 15(3)
5. Horvath TL, Gao XB. Input organization and plasticity of hypocretin neurons: possible clues to obesity's association with insomnia. Cell Metabolism 2005;1(4):279-286

6. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gayatri-devi-md/how-sleep-improves-memory_b_410815.html

7. "Drowsy Driving Fact Sheet". American Academy of Sleep Medicine 2009.

8. Drew D, Reid K. Fatigue, alcohol and performance impairment. Nature 2005; 388 (6639): 235.

9. Carney RM, Freedland KE, Jaffe AS. Insomnia and depression prior to myocardial infarction. Psychosomatic Medicine 1990;52(6) 603-609.

10. Gottlieb DJ, Punjabi NM, Newman AB, et al. "Association of sleep time with diabetes mellitus and impaired glucose tolerance". Archives of Internal Medicine 2005;165 (8): 863-7

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