by Brian Kim, MD, MS
“… Sufficient sleep is not a luxury—it is a necessity—and should be thought of as a vital sign of good health.”
– Wayne H. Giles, MD, Centers for Disease Control
“I think sleeping was my problem in school. If school had started at four in the afternoon, I’d be a college graduate today.”
– George Foreman
A few months ago, while rounding the floor of the medicine wards, I stepped into the room of a patient who had been admitted the previous night. A successful businesswoman in her 30’s, she had managed to ascend the corporate ladder with ease, despite being, to the surprise of her close friends and family, a high-functioning alcoholic. That is until, one day, she (and her liver) stopped functioning. She had a laundry list of medical problems, a number of which could have taken her life in a matter of weeks to months. And, yet, the only issue that seemed to be on her agenda that morning (or at least the only one she wanted to talk about) was how poorly she had slept last night and wanted to know what I could do about it. We talked about her sleep every morning for the next 30 days, until she was finally discharged from the hospital.
It seemed incongruous, maybe even absurd, to have spent so much time discussing an issue that ranked #11 on my list of 13 problems for this patient. But, as I have seen with countless patients, both in and out of the hospital, there are few concerns (other than pain and constipation) that are voiced as consistently as poor sleep. Read the rest of this entry →