Dr. Alan Mendelsohn almost never eats the entree when he attends a wedding, gala or bat mitzvah. By the time it’s served, he’s already left to obey his 9:30 p.m. bedtime. He and his wife don’t schedule late dinners with other couples or phone their adult kids later at night. Again, his bed beckons. Mendelsohn even turns the TV off before the end of Sunday Night Football games – not even making exceptions for his “beloved” Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Admittedly, it takes willpower to forgo watching the game in its entirety, but I am always ‘a good boy’ and go to sleep on time,” says Mendelsohn, an ophthalmologist in Hollywood, Florida, who watches the first quarter and records the rest to watch another day.
Mendelsohn has a good “excuse” to hit the hay early every night. Not only does he naturally fall asleep and wake up early, he owes it to his patients to feel his sharpest on the job – especially on Mondays, when he performs cataract surgeries. “Patients are entrusting me with the health and well-being of their eyes,” says Mendelsohn, who goes to sleep no later than 9 p.m. on Sunday nights in preparation for surgery.
Doctor or not, sufficient sleep is critically important, even potentially life-lengthening, for us all. And yet, it’s increasingly difficult to achieve on a consistent basis. “We prioritize exercising or eating right, but when it comes to sleep, we tend to put it to the wayside pretty quickly,” says Dr. Brynn Dredla, a neurologist and sleep medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. And who can help it? With smartphones, Netflix and bosses without boundaries competing for our interests, “bedtime” rarely stands a chance.
“We are abusing our bodies more now than we did previously,” says Dr. Sairam Parthasarathy, director of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Sciences at the University of Arizona Health Sciences. “I didn’t used to be able to see all my emails, multitask [and] text all from my bed.”
1. “I don’t want to die.”
While it sounds dramatic, there’s a link between chronic sleep deprivation and an early death,