To Your Health: Sleep Deprivation & Upcoming Talks

Dr. Alan Safdi was one of the most popular speakers at the Telluride First Foundation’s inaugural Integrative Wellness Summit . He is scheduled to speak again at the 2nd annual conference, which takes place September 9 – 11 and also features Deepak Chopra (streaming live); Dr. David Agus; Dr. George Pratt, and more. Jewel is the Friday night keynote; she will tell her story of personal growth through words and music. For more about the speakers, go here. To purchase tickets, go here.

A regular contributor to Telluride Inside… and Out, Dr. Safdi’s column is entitled “To Your Health.” (Search under the column name or Safdi’s name on our home page to find all his eye-opening posts.)

In March, Dr. Safdi (and his colleague Dr. William Renner) spoke at a 3-day wellness symposium on a variety of hot topics in the field of health and wellness. Safdi and Renner are continuing that series this summer and fall. The first talk is scheduled for this coming week, Tuesday, August 2 – Thursday 4.

The next two talks are in SeptemberL at the IntegrativeWellness Summit on September 11; and then, September 28-30. Go here to register.

In the run-up to both events, to whet the appetite for what’s to come, Telluride Inside.. and Out is hosting a series of podcasts on subjects in medical headlines today, including exercise, supplements, longevity, diet and nutrition, break-throughs in cancer research. 

This week, Dr. Safdi talks about sleep deprivation. Scroll down to the bottom of the story to listen to his podcast on the subject.



Human beings spend on average one third of our lives asleep. We know we need to sleep, but most of us have never really given a whole lot of thought to why.

How come we spend seven or eight hours a night immobile and unconscious? What really happens inside our brains and bodies while we are sleeping?

Turns out one of the least studied and most important topics in regards to health and longevity is sleep.

Let’s look at findings for peopled aged 18 to 64.

For that broad demographic, doctors recommend 7-9 hours of sleep, although a lesser amount of 6 hours or greater amount of 10 hours may be appropriate for some. The average American sleeps 6.9 hours a night, but in truth, it is difficult to determine what constitutes a normal quantity of sleep for any given individual.

One approach to figuring out “normal” involves determining how long a patient would sleep if left to awaken spontaneously. An alternative is determining how alert the patient feels after different durations of sleep. Alertness is considered “normal” if the patient wakes feeling refreshed and is capable of moving through the day feeling on top of their game without effort, even when placed in boring or monotonous situations. What we do know is that it is possible for an individual to sleep 8 or more hours and still be sleep deprived. In such cases, the sleep deprivation is usually due to disturbances in the quality of sleep.

Sleep quality is determined by the number of arousals (or awakenings) from sleep during the night, as well as the percentage, duration, and type of sleep stages. As few as 5 arousals per hour of sleep can result in daytime sleepiness and/or performance deficits even after just one night of disruption. Patients are unaware of the arousals, in part because their so-called “duration” can be just seconds long before the individual returns to the same sleep stage he or she was in before the break. Arousals are usually due to sleep disorders (e.g., sleep apnea, periodic leg movements), but they may also occur spontaneously.

The true purpose of sleeping is poorly understood, but multiple theories exist.

Evolutionarily speaking, it would seem that a state in which an animal is unaware of its environment would be dangerous and unlikely to continue as a genetic trait passed on through the centuries. That sleep is observed in all animal species suggests there must be some positive benefits.

What are some of the consequences of sleep deprivation? There are so many, we can only scratch the surface.

Blood pressure can increase and reaction time may slow down.

Appetite may increase with a subsequent increased intake of food and associated risk of obesity.

Cognitive impairment is the most prominent effect of total sleep deprivation or sleep restriction over several nights.

Sleep-deprived individuals tend to take longer to respond to stimuli, particularly when tasks are monotonous and associated with low cognitive demands. Tasks requiring sustained attention can be impaired by even a few hours of sleep loss.

Sleep deprivation may result in a mental state that resembles depression or anxiety, with patients reporting poor mood, irritability, low energy, decreased libido, poor judgment, and other signs of psychologic dysfunction.

In a cross-sectional analysis of a large European study of insulin resistance in otherwise healthy adults. getting too much or too little sleep was associated with an increased diabetes risk among men, but not in women. Reported difficulty falling or staying asleep or sleeping too much was associated with heightened cardiovascular and metabolic risk.

There are numerous solutions for getting a better night sleep; some may be worth trying.

First, make sure you do not have a treatable problem such as sleep apnea.

Try and unwind before bed and definitely do not check email, watch TV, or work out just before going to sleep.

Try turning off all electronic screens at least 30-60 minutes before bed.

Exercise can help you sleep, but try to finish your workout earlier in the day.

Try reading a good book but again, avoid electronics.

Establish a regular bedtime routine.

Caffeine in all forms – coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, and unfortunately chocolates – late in the day is problematic for many. If you are one of those people, cut back or cut out.

To learn more, listen to Dr. Alan Safdi’s podcast.

Editor’s Note: 

Our relationship with Dr. Alan Safdi started several years ago when we attended a Wellness Conference at The Peaks Resort & Spa. Dr. Safdi, is a gastroenterologist with a talent for offering evidence-based medical findings for healthy living in easily digestible sound bytes. We next heard him speak at Telluride First Foundation’s inaugural Integrative Wellness Conference, where the audience got just a taste of his encyclopedic knowledge of mind-body wellness with an emphasis on prevention.

More about Dr. Alan Safdi:

Dr. Alan Safdi
Dr. Alan Safdi

Dr. Alan Safdi is a speaker, contributor, and serves on the advisory board of the Telluride First Foundation.

He is board certified in Internal Medicine and in Gastroenterology and a Fellow of the American College of Gastroenterology. A proven leader in the healthcare arena, Safdi has been featured on the national program “Medical Crossfire” and authored or co-authored numerous medical articles and abstracts. He has been an investigator in over 581 studies and is President of both the Consultants For Clinical Research and the Ohio Gastroenterology and Liver Institute.

Dr. Safdi has been involved in grant-based and clinical research for about 35 years and is passionate about disease prevention and wellness, not just fixing what has gone wrong. He is an international lecturer on the subjects of wellness, nutrition, and gastroenterology.

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