Writing About Sleep from the Road

Admittedly, this trip was different because it revolved around my receiving an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the Medical Academy of Lublin, Poland for my contributions to the education of Polish doctors and my participating in the separation of a set of conjoined twins who were born in that city.

Prior to going to Poland I stopped in London to attend the dinner honoring the new President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The various forms of transportation (train, plane and underground) were made less tedious due to the easy access to newspapers and magazines. As any viewer of TV or movies made in the United Kingdom might know, riders of public transportation in the UK invariably have their faces buried in some form of printed paper.

In my case, it seemed that everything I picked up (all were free) had an article related to sleep. This was fortunate, indeed, because until I had these clippings in my hand I was wondering what to write about this month.

Looking at the articles, it is somewhat reassuring that the popular press finds sleep an area of great and recurring interest. Simply stated, the popular press seems willing and ready to write on every aspect of sleep. What follows are my comments on the topic selected by other media.

The most recent issue (October, 2007) of Reader’s Digest (US Edition) features a cover showing a woman in the fetal position on a cloud, superimposed on a picture of the galaxy. The title accompanying this image is “The Magic Power of Sleep.” The article begins with a question, “When did 24/7 become a way of life?” and goes on to describe how millions of Americans are putting their health, quality of life and even length of life in jeopardy by lack of proper sleep. (I wonder if the author had been reading our Journal in preparation for this article.) The author then goes on to suggest that people who sleep longer have less health risks, look and feel better, are happier and less stressed, have more brain power and might even lose weight. (This Journal has been saying the same thing for ages.)

A second article in one of the British Airways In Flight magazines extolled aromatherapy as a means for obtaining good sleep when traveling or attempting to combat jet lag. Here, the author who goes by the byline “Dr. Sleep” advises sandalwood and lavender for sleep and grapefruit for tiredness.

The Sunday Times of London also advised that obtaining 7 hours of “shut eye” a night can slash the risk of health problems, noting that those who manage fewer hours double the risk of heart problems. More alarmingly those who drop down to 5 hours or less face a 70% extra risk of death from all causes and twice the risk of death from cardiovascular problems.

The last article (the London Metro, Wednesday, September 26, 2007) rated a full page and was illustrated with a photograph of a couple, only half covered by a sheet. The article described “sleep sex”—a rare condition that triggers sexual behavior while sleeping. The article noted that the first recorded episode appeared in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry in 2003, but did not explain why sex needed to be reported in a psychiatric journal (in my medical school, sexual behavior was part of normality; it was the lack of sexual behavior that was considered abnormal). The unsigned article then continued describing the varieties of behavior that may take place when one is asleep and even gave a website with comments from more than a thousand sufferers, e.g. sleepsex.org
. We checked this site on Google and it really exists with lots of sub-sites!

The variety of sleep related items in the popular press supports the interest of the public in this topic. It also lends credence to the editorial mission of Sleep and Health. Your editorial team goes to great length to make the paper factual first, interesting second, and well written, always. We are here to make you sleep better and to help you enjoy a more healthful life.