The New Science of Sleep
We live in a shortsighted society that sees sleep as an obstacle to productivity [Jan. 24]. But the truth is quite the opposite. A nightly investment in eight hours of rest may lead to even greater accomplishments. The greatest and most imaginative members of society, our children, sleep 10 to 12 hours a night. We should follow their lead. And we certainly shouldn't buy into romanticized notions of how much work we can do without sleep.
Lewis J. Kass, M.D., Director
Pediatric Sleep Laboratory
The Children's Hospital at Montefiore
New York City
Instead of asking why we sleep, it might make sense to ask why we wake. Perchance we live to dream. From that perspective, the sea of troubles we navigate in the workaday world might be the price we pay for admission to another night in the world of dreams.
San Rafael, California, U.S.
You reported that scientists have found that going for more than 20 hours without sleep significantly impairs a person's cognitive abilities and reaction times, producing a functional level as bad as if one had a blood-alcohol level of 0.08. Perhaps those scientists should talk to their colleagues who run medical-residency programs that require 24- to 36-hour shifts. Sleep deprivation might contribute to medical mistakes, leading to malpractice lawsuits and higher malpractice insurance costs, which drive some doctors to stop practicing.
Potomac, Maryland, U.S.
Going without rest is a disturbing universal trend, like overachieving. But sleep deprivation will catch up with us in the end. Falling asleep at the wheel because of lack of sleep has killed innocent drivers. Why do we feel the need to be constantly doing something? To pump up our self-esteem? I'm with William Shakespeare, who referred to "sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care."
Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan, U.S.
Bullies Go Free
As a retired educator of 34 years, I read with interest your article on the growth of bullying in European schools [Jan. 24]. The escalating problem is hardly surprising given that one administrator's response to a bullying situation was to tell the students he would resign if the bullying didn't stop. Perhaps this type of approach reflects the root of the problem. The guilty offender is not held accountable for his actions and is not required to face any consequences. The victim is not protected by a strong behavioral code that includes clear sanctions against those who bully. And the responsible parties who are expected to provide guidance and discipline threaten to quit if the bullies don't behave. Are the inmates running the asylum?
Schools in Sweden teem with bullies, and almost nothing is done to stop them. On the contrary, bullies are ignored by cynical authorities and encouraged by models of tyranny at every level. Teachers often use bullying tactics, and formal inquiries into incidents are defused by bureaucratic psychobabble. Often it is the victims themselves who are considered suspect.
Jon van Leuven
Rising from the Rubble
My sincere thanks to all the world's people for their generosity toward Sri Lankan tsunami victims [Jan. 24]. We are especially grateful to Americans. Sri Lankans stuck by the U.S. during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 and after the 9/11 attacks. For their part, Americans have always aided us, with little fanfare, in bleak times during the '60s floods and now after the tsunami devastation. We'll always be a friend to the U.S.
Bandula Sri Amarasekara
Colombo, Sri Lanka
I was deeply disturbed to read that no warnings about an impending tsunami reached the countries in peril. Humankind needs to work together to combat the unforeseen destructive forces of nature and safeguard the lives of millions. The damage and loss of life could have been minimized to a great extent if governments had been quicker to realize what was coming and had issued warnings. We have to get past the political boundaries that we have built. Nature will always teach us that.
Setting up tsunami-detection buoys in the Indian Ocean is the right idea. But such a warning system cannot guarantee safety unless it is supported by roads that link coastal resorts to large centers that could house evacuees and by emergency public transportation that could be mobilized when an alert is sounded. There must also be a change in the architectural design of buildings in tsunami-prone areas. New construction should be able to withstand severe flooding and earthquakes. When all these measures have been taken, casualties and fatalities will be minimal in the event of another tsunami.
Augustine C. Ohanwe
With the exception of drought, Africa has not experienced many of the natural disasters that affect other areas. We are, however, plagued by man-made disasters resulting from our corrupt leaders' mismanagement and plunder of our natural resources. The result is that masses of our people wallow in penury.
While the release of the final four British citizens held for three years at the Guantánamo prison camp was welcome [Jan. 24], it is staggering that Washington still claims that these men are hard-core terrorists. If they are so dangerous, why did the U.S. free them? Officials cannot claim that people are enemy combatants simply because they happened to be in a country like Afghanistan where terrorist events are common. Should the British Foreign Office warn tourists that they may be arrested for traveling to such places?
Bush's New Campaign
Columnist Joe Klein discussed why President Bush is taking the controversial position in favor of reforming Social Security [Jan. 24]. Although I usually agree with Klein, I take issue with his endorsement of private investment accounts for Social Security. Over the past quarter-century, most Americans have moved from traditional pension plans into retirement savings plans funded by employer and employee contributions. Those are private investment accounts, and all involve risk. Individuals own those accounts and manage them. At one time, the employer bore the risk and responsibility in a pension plan, but now the employee does. I find comfort in having Social Security as a defined benefit, a guaranteed amount, one not dependent on the whims of the market.
Bush misled our country into going to war when he claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Now he is trying to mislead us into thinking that Social Security is in
crisis and needs a drastic overhaul. When he tells young people that Social Security won't be there for them when they reach retirement age, he just might be right, but only
because he has sabotaged a successful program that merely needed a few
South Lake Tahoe, California, U.S.