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Medical memo: Sleep, heart disease, and prostate cancer

August 01, 2010

Sleep is an essential part of life, refreshing the mind and restoring the body. But in our fast-paced, global, 24/7 world, a good night's sleep is taking on endangered species status. Over the course of the 20th century, the average American lost about two hours of sleep a night, and the trend is likely to continue.

Although some people function remarkably well on as little as four or five hours of sleep, most adults need seven to eight hours. Sleep deprivation can be very harmful. Daytime sleepiness, impaired concentration and judgment, depression and irritability, and diminished performance both on the job and off are well-known consequences of inadequate sleep. Car crashes and other accidents are also common. And sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk for diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and even erectile dysfunction.

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