The biomedical extreme is dire: Although no one has subjected humans to such rest, we know that laboratory rats die if denied sleep long enough (in their case tow to three weeks).
No one has been talking much about this before now, "says Dr. Safwan Badr, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and chief of the Wayne State University School of Medicine's Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine - a mouthful that by simply lumping critical care with sleep lends weight to Badr's warnings about the importance of the topic.
"We talk about diet and exercise, but not about sleep," Badr says. "In fact, sleep is as important as those first two. Sleep curtailment - getting less than six hours a night - is associated with higher overall mortality and a higher risk of many chronic conditions, including heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Sleep deficiency is a public health epidemic. That's why sleep medicine is now its own discipline and medical organizations are declaring it a priority. The consequences of inadequate sleep are profound."