Can you recall the last time you woke, without an alarm clock, feeling refreshed, not needing caffeine?
Or the last time it took more than 5 minutes to fall asleep when you put your head on your pillow?
If you can’t remember you are not alone. Two-thirds of adults throughout all developed nations fail to obtain the recommended 8 hours sleep a night. Scientists from Oxford University claim we’re getting between one and two hours less sleep per night than we did sixty years ago. In the context of an 8-hour sleep cycle, that’s a hugely significant drop of up to 25%.
Well rested people wake up without alarms and take 10-15 minutes to fall asleep.
I doubt you are surprised that two-thirds of us are living our lives in a state of sleep deprivation, but you may be surprised by the consequences.
The shorter you sleep, the shorter your life.
Routinely sleeping less than 6 or 7 hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubles your risk of cancer and can lead to cardiovascular disease, stroke and heart failure
Shakespeare knew of the importance of sleep and referred to it as ‘Nature’s second course’ and ‘Nature’s soft nurse’. William Shakespeare wrote in Macbeth: ‘Sleep…balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course; chief nourisher in life’s feast’.
Sleep occupied nearly a third of our lives but many of us give surprisingly little attention and care to it. We’re in the middle of a sleep deprivation epidemic. Not only do we have far too many distractions in our daily lives but we also live in a ‘sleep is for wimps’ culture that links this natural, nurturing and critical bodily function with laziness.
This neglect is often the result of a major misunderstanding. Sleep is not lost time, or just a way to rest. We tend to think of sleep as a time when the mind and body shut down. But this is not the case; sleep is an active period in which a lot of important processing, restoration, and strengthening occurs.
Sleep it is a critical function when our body balances and regulates its vital systems. Effecting respiration and regulating everything from circulation, to growth and immune response. Sleep is also crucial to your brain, intensely active period of restructuring, which is crucial for how our memory works. Memory consolidation occurs during the night using Hypocampus, transferring short term memories to consolidated long terms memory and placing them in the cortex.
Many people think that not getting a good night’s sleep makes them grumpy.
In fact, the effects are far more damaging. Even small amounts of lost sleep play havoc with your brain, making you accident-prone, unproductive and unfocused.
The impact of sleep deprivation is very serious. In January 2018 the Office of Public Health England estimated that sleep deprivation not only leads to poor communication, poor concentration, poor cognition, but poor quality sleep also dramatically increases the chances of you suffering from high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, and obesity.
A quarter of all fatal road accidents in the UK are caused by sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation seriously impacts accidents in the workplace, not only warehouse drivers and production line operators, but also in operating theatres and nuclear power stations.
If you were to hear of an amazing new breakthrough, that scientists have discovered a wonderful new treatment. A treatment that:
- Makes you live longer
- Enhances your memory
- Increases your creativity
- Keep you youthful
- Protects from cancer and dementia
- Lowers risks of heart attacks, stroke & diabetes
- Reduces depression and anxiety
Would you want some? Of course, you would. Well, you have access to it right now, sleep! Regularly getting the recommended number of sleep hours will impact all of these.
The sleep guru Mathew Walker writes ‘I realise now that sleep is the foundation on which all other health bastions sit. Take away the bedrock of sleep, or weaken it just a little, and careful eating or physical exercise becomes less than effective. Like water from a burst pipe in your home, the effects of sleep deprivation will seep into every nook and cranny of biology, down to your cells.’
How do you improve your sleep? There are many useful resources out there for sleep hygiene, The Sleep Foundation being one, www.sleepfoundation.org. You can find one that resonates with you. All are excellent useful impactful advice.
I will finish appropriately with one of my favourite Irish Proverbs
“A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything”