Only in the movies would you end up with Meg Ryan if you truly are Sleepless in Seattle. Never mind that you are Tom Hanks.
In real life, Tom never gets to make out with Meg because he is sleep deprived.
As a chronic insomniac, Tom would be…
…Depressed, irritable and angry. When his young son Jonah wants him to call in to a national radio talk show on Christmas Eve, Tom yells at his son. He then stomps off into his bedroom and slams the door, leaving poor Jonah crying. People with insomnia are 10 times more likely to be depressed than people who sleep well.
…Inarticulate and scatter-brained. In the film, where he entrances Meg from Baltimore with his longing for his dead wife, Tom would sound idiotic instead of the poetic, hopelessly romantic, grieving widower he was. Sleep deprivation is associated with trouble finding words and poor concentration.
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….Hallucinating. Tom sees visions of his beloved, dead wife and he opts to spend time in bed chatting with her instead of voicing his grief publicly on syndicated airtime. Sleeplessness is associated with psychosis.
…Overweight and unhappy with his looks. Tom does not even think about dating. Sleep deprivation is associated with obesity. Certain nerve cells in your brain’s hypothalamus get excited when you are stressed. This makes you stop sleeping and overeat at the same time. Really? Yes, really.
…Lacking in creativity. He loses his job as an architect and can’t afford the airfare to meet Meg. Edison and Churchill both relied on restful night-time sleep and day-time naps to invent, win Pulitzer prizes, and win WWII.
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…in a car accident. Tom has an accident on the way to the airport and poor Jonah is left orphaned. A quarter million motor vehicle accidents a year are attributed to drowsiness. Driving while sleepless is as dangerous as driving while drunk.
… having a heart attack on the airplane. Tom somehow makes it to the flight to New York but dies enroute. Poor Jonah is orphaned after all. Sleep deprivation increases the risk for heart attacks and diabetes. In one small study, 40 percent of patients reported at least two weeks of insomnia before suffering a heart attack. Sleep deprivation reduces glucose tolerance which increases the risk for diabetes which increases risk for heart disease.
….Anxious, so that when he finally meets Meg in the elevator of the Empire State Building, he cannot speak. Maybe Tom is so anxious, he takes the stairs instead and misses out on Meg altogether. Insomniacs are 17 times more anxious than the rest of us.
….Showing poor judgment. He decides Meg isn’t the woman of his dreams after all.
So Tom, get some sleep, will ya? Meg’s waiting.
Gayatri Devi, MD, Clinical Associate Professor of Neurology, NYU School of Medicine, is the Director of New York Memory and Healthy Aging Services. Dr. Devi is a board certified neurologist who has additional board certifications in the areas of Pain Medicine, Psychiatry, and Behavioral Neurology. She serves as an Attending Physician at Lenox Hill Hospital of New York City.
Dr. Devi completed her training at SUNY Downstate and after serving as Chief Resident of Neurology, she became a Fellow in Behavioral Neurology in the Department of Neurology at Columbia University. She was then Assistant Professor at SUNY Stony Brook and Director of the Long Island Alzheimer’s Disease Center. Dr. Devi has been an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Columbia University and Director of the Memory Disorders Center at the Center for Women’s Health at Columbia Presbyterian-Eastside.
Dr. Devi has published in numerous peer-reviewed journals and has presented papers at national meetings of the American Neurological Association, the American Neuropsychiatric Association and the North American Menopause Society. She has appeared in the media to discuss memory disorders, including the BBC, Reuters, FOX and ABC. She is President of the National Council on Women’s Health.
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