Does anyone else remember Wake-ups? Those little pink caffeine pills with a rooster graphic could keep you up far longer than any cup of coffee ever could. I spent many university all-nighters fueled by “roosters,” cramming for exams that should have been attended to much earlier. Sometimes I could barely write my answers on a test the next day because my hands were shaking from too much caffeine and too little sleep.
Now, a cup or two of coffee each day is my only caffeine buzz, and I no longer stay up all night, but I still don’t get as much sleep as I should. Few people do. The average person sleeps 60 to 90 minutes less than they did 50 years ago. Thirty-five to 40 percent of the American adult population has problems with falling asleep or with daytime sleepiness.
“It’s a big problem,” says Lawrence Epstein, M.D., chief medical officer for the Harvard-affiliated Sleep Health Centers and author of The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep. “People don’t think sleep is important because we can get by with less, but we’re putting our health at risk.”