July 11, 2007 18:21 ET

Harry Potter and the Sleepy Hallows

NASHVILLE, TN--(Marketwire - July 11, 2007) - -- Sutton MacQueen, 13, won't rest -- literally -- until she's turned the last and final page of the Harry Potter saga.

Even if it means staying up all night and into the next day.

"I'm going to be exhausted but very content," she said. "It will be worth it."

But the toll it may take on her body may not be.

Sleep experts say most Americans are already sleep deprived, and pulling an all-nighter or going to bed hours later than normal is just not healthy.

"The problem is most of us are already burning the candle at both ends to begin with," said Dr. Jim Stocks, a pulmonologist and sleep medicine specialist in Tyler, Texas. "The average person is already shortchanging themselves on needed sleep by an hour or more every single night of the week. When you add an all-nighter on top of chronic sleep deprivation, you compound the consequences."

Still, millions of teenagers and adults will forego sleep to devour J.K. Rowling's final book in the Harry Potter series. The book, which goes on sale at midnight July 21, has already become a best seller. Amazon reported the book became its most pre-ordered book with about 1.6 million copies reserved. And the online bookseller predicts hundreds of thousands more copies will be sold before the book comes out.

Sleep loss easier on the young

MacQueen, of Memphis, Tenn., will attend a party long enough to get her book. Then she plans to read, flashlight in hand, until she's through.

"It's so good. It's like you go far away from the regular world and go to Harry Potter's world which is completely different."

She knows she'll probably be tired and cranky the next day. "I won't admit it, but I might be," she said.

Fortunately, children bounce back from sleep fasts quicker than grown-ups, said Stocks.

"Children have a much more robust sleep mechanism," he said. "Children can stay up to 1 or 2 o'clock and be perfect devils the next day. But when they do go to sleep, the average child falls asleep quicker than adults."

That's not good news for 41-year-old Potter-addict Kim Carpenter Drake.

She plans on staying up "till 4 a.m. with my eyes glazed open and getting up at 7 a.m. And I'll do that for about 48 hours," till she's turned the last page.

"I'll get three or four hours of sleep, and I'll be dreaming about it in between, wondering what happens on the next page," said Carpenter Drake, who owns a tea shop in Nashville.

And while she talks lightly of staying up nearly all night, going without sleep is a big deal for her.

"Normally, I'm a huge sleeper. I'm a nine- or 10-hour sleeper. I sleep like a five year old," she said. "This is no small thing for me to go from 10 hours of sleep to three."

Stocks agreed.

The hardest part for adults is not going to sleep when our bodies want it most, Stocks said. If you aren't in bed at the peak moment when your body needs to sleep, which occurs before midnight, chances are you won't go down easily when you try.

He said it's extremely difficult to go to sleep at 4 a.m., when Carpenter Drake plans to get some shut eye.

"You'd be better to stay up an hour or so, get to sleep at 11 or thereabout and set your clock a little earlier," Stocks suggests.

"But if the book's coming out at midnight, you've already ruined yourself," he said. "It's already too danged late. You have past your body's biologic peak sleep desire."

Driving while drowsy

Melissa Mayer, of Chicago, may have the best plan to read and sleep.

"I will end up staying up later, about two hours later than I normally do," said Mayer, 29, who normally goes to bed about 11 p.m. She said she's also tempted to get up early and read before going to work.

Stocks, who has seven children, all of whom are Potter fans, knows they'll be tempted to stay up and read.

"Most of us can get away with it okay. We're just going to be particularly grouchy the next day," he said.

The problem comes when the sleep deprivation lasts two or three days.

"It's not immediately fatal. But it does increase the chances of having an accident. We may make it to work, muddle through the work day tired and grouchy and not think clearly. And we may have an accident on the way home from work."

According to the National Highway Transportation Board, driver drowsiness and fatigue account for more than 1,500 deaths a year on American highways; and that's before the release of the final Harry Potter novel.

"So the risk goes even a little higher now, because you are much more severely sleep deprived if you've been up the entire night reading Harry Potter."

Wise ways to read

"The best way to do it," Stocks suggested, "would be to get a designated driver the next day. Get a non-Potter fan to do the driving. You can have your pleasure reading and the rest of us will have our safety."

Or stay at home and finish the book, then reset your internal body clock.

After a marathon reading session, avoid the temptation to sleep if it's not your normal bedtime, Stocks said.

Don't nap. Go to bed an hour or so before your normal bedtime and sleep just a little longer than normal.

"If you don't abuse yourself too badly on Friday and Saturday and on Sunday night you get rest, you should be able to get to work safely on Monday."

Carpenter Drake understands the advice and said she may pace herself through the book.

But she makes no promises.

She said she was so determined to finish the previous book her husband "ended up sleeping in the guest room because I wouldn't turn the light off."

So she's been planning. She's stockpiling vitamin C and during the reading, she'll be guzzling cold black tea, which has the highest caffeine levels of tea.

"You've got to think ahead," she said. "It's not a day for herbals."

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