Learning depends on a good night’s Zs

Researchers at Harvard Medical School have important news for anyone trying to learn a new skill involving movement..

Whether you’re pitching a softball, working on your tee shot, or perfecting your serve, the quality of sleep you get is almost as important as practice. The doctors found that the final two hours of sleep during an eight-hour sleep night are particularly important.

The Harvard people discovered that people learning keyboard skills in the evening learned them 20 percent faster than people learning those skills in the morning. This was only true, however, if the evening people had a good night’s sleep.

Lack of sleep increases the risk of high blood pressure

The National Health and Nutrition Survey published in Hypertension identifies sleeplessness as a significant risk factor for high blood pressure.

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center say this is the first study that shows a relationship between short sleep duration and high blood pressure.

Included in the survey were people ages 32 to 59 who got five hours of sleep or less a night. They were more than twice as likely to develop hypertension than those who got the recommended norm of seven to eight hours. The difference remained even after controlling for known hypertension risk factors.

On the other hand, people who got nine hours of sleep were no less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who got seven or eight hours.

Many conditions contribute to high blood pressure, such as obesity, but lack of sleep appears to be an independent cause. Normally during sleep the heart rate and blood pressure are lower. In people deprived of sleep over a long period of time, however, the work done by the heart increases. This can lead to irreversible changes in the heart and blood vessels.

The study shows that 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders that are often not treated. The disorders include obstructive sleep apnea, chronic insomnia, and restless leg syndrome, according to Tufts University.

Sleep disorders and deprivation are estimated to cost $150 billion in business productivity, $48 billion in vehicle accidents involving tired drivers, and $16 billion in medical care for sleep disorders.