Get your sleep benefits

Doctors answer medical questions for worried parents.

Sleep (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
I have three adult children aged 22 to 30, and all of them seem to get too little sleep – working on the computer, using their smartphone and watching TV until after midnight or 1 a.m. They seem to me to get less than six hours of sleep per night. They laugh at me when I mention it, saying “all Israelis are like us and don’t sleep a lot,” but they don’t think there are any health or safety dangers.
Can a little snooze during the day make up for lack of sleep at night? What can I tell them that could persuade them to sleep more?
V.D., Dimona
Livnat Cohen, head of the organizational psychology department of the Israel Institute for Occupational Safety and Hygiene, comments:
A lack of sleep is liable to harm the health and safety of individuals, at their work and on the road. Studies have shown that the only way to improve concentration and memory is to sleep an hour to an hour-and-a-half more every night. The lack of sleep also upsets the immune system and greatly increases the risk of being involved in road and work accidents.
Most people need seven, eight or even more hours of sleep per night. Most cannot function best without eight hours of sleep. The most dangerous situation is when people are unaware that they sleep too little.
Inadequate sleep harms judgment. For example, workers who get too little sleep may not be able to estimate at what height they are or the speed of a forklift. They are less alert and have slower reaction times. Sleeping too little, like drinking alcohol or taking drugs, increases risk-taking. A study in 2012 found that fatigue multiplies the risk of accidents by four – more than alcohol and drugs! There is also a higher risk of distraction, less compliance with rules and more irritability. A single night of too little sleep can affect human functioning for two weeks or more.
Lack of sleep can also lead to depression, anxiety, hypertension, diabetes, stress, lack of exercise, smoking and excessive drinking of alcohol. For employees in jobs that require exactitude and safety, lack of sleep harms the workers’ health, causes work accidents, cuts productivity and causes loss of work days.
A little snooze can help, but it is not a substitute for healthy sleep habits. There is much benefit from long-term steady and regular sleep patterns.
My six-year-old son was just diagnosed with asthma, and I was wondering how I can prevent him from having attacks while he is playing with his friends and going on strenuous family trips.
J.P., Beersheba
Dr. Amir Kugelman, chairman of the Israel Society for Pediatric Pulmonology, replies:
As the summer is usually packed with trips, sports and other activities, if you have an asthmatic child, you should do all you can so he lives as normally as possible and without limitations, including in sports.
The doctor should suit the child’s asthma treatment to his activity so he won’t suffer breathing problems. Take an inhaler on trips so he is not caught without one far from home. Clean the filters of air conditioners at home to minimize the accumulated dust and allergens inside.
There are fewer viral respiratory infections in the summer than in the winter. The windows are usually open, rooms are aired, and there are not as many allergens, because the flowering of spring has ended. Thus, if there are asthma attacks in the summer, they should be fewer and less severe. This may make it possible for your child to take a time-out from his preventive asthma medications during this season. Ask his allergy specialist what to do if he takes a vacation from his medications but suddenly has an attack.
As the autumn nears, it’s a good idea to make an appointment for him with his allergy specialist to reassess his treatment and get inhalers for use when he returns to school and he encounters respiratory viruses that are liable to trigger attacks in the coming months.
I read that a dentist working for a health fund’s dental clinic tipped over a syringe containing a poisonous substance that fell into the eye of his patient and caused permanent damage to her sight. He allegedly told the patient to wash out her eye and continued the treatment. But she had pain and went to an eye doctor, who sent her to an emergency room. Her cornea was seriously damaged. He was sued. What a nightmare! In the dentist’s chair, I myself sometimes think of such accidents that could happen. How could such an accident happen and how could it have been prevented?
P.D., Tel Aviv
Dr. Steve Sattler, a retired private Jerusalem dentist, replies:
The dentist should have asked his patient to wear sunglasses or given her a pair. She was probably lying flat on the dental chair. I never treated my patients if they were lying flat; but always at a 45-degree angle.
Accidents can happen when health funds’ dental companies work cheaply and put the dentists under a lot of pressure to treat patients fast. This has created a situation in which dentists may take shortcuts. There is no serious supervision by the Health Ministry of the performance of health fund subsidiary dental clinics, and I believe there is so much overtreatment that about a third of all dental treatments in such clinics are unnecessary.
Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx for Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 9100002, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or e-mail it to, giving your initials, age and place of residence.