For a long time sleep has been one of the least understood and underappreciated aspects of health and wellness.
It is easy to concentrate on subjects like diet, alcohol-intake, stress management and exercise; ironically, all things that can contribute to a bad night’s sleep. But with scientific evidence to back the claims, it is becoming vital in the importance of sleep, and how it enhances learning potential, boosts your immune system and helps increase your chances of sustaining a healthy memory.
You may not be surprised by this fact, but two-thirds of adults throughout all developed nations fail to obtain the recommended eight hours of sleep a night (World Health Organisation statistic).
A recent TED Talk with Matt Walker, a sleep scientist, professor and author discusses the implications behind a lack of sleep not only in the short term, but long term effects on our health. For those in jobs that often demand our time outside of the typical 9-5, switching off can seem difficult to do, especially given our reliance on digital technologies. Is it possible we are not paying enough attention to our sleep patterns?
“It's a silent sleep loss epidemic, and it's fast becoming one of the greatest public health challenges that we face in the 21st century.”
Amongst the many insightful points Matt Walker covers in the implications to getting less than six hours sleep a night a few include;
Creating a 40% deficit in the amount of information your brain can contain the following day. (Tests have been conducted analysing the ‘Hippocampus’ the information box in your brain
It can cause a chain reaction later in life, that as you age and your quality of deep sleep reduces, adding to this with an even bigger shortage in sleep will amplify the chances of dementia and aging
Can trigger an alarming 70% decrease in the ‘natural killer cells’ in your immune system that fight against illnesses including the growth of tumours. (70% is a concerning state of immune deficiency)
“So, you may have heard of that old saying that you can sleep when you’re dead. Well, I am being quite serious now – it is mortally unwise advice.” Matt Walker
What can you do to get your sleep back on track? What tests are being conducted globally to support this information? Do the affects go beyond our immune system and memory? Can you catch up on sleep to make up for lost ‘zzz’s’?
The main thing that is on our side when it comes to the subject of sleep – you control it! It is not out of reach or unrealistic and is reversible in the habits you have exhibited up until now. Matt Walker’s main two forms of advice; regularity and keeping it cool.
Make some time to listen to Matt Walker’s TED Talk; ‘Sleep is your super power’. For those interested in further reading Matt Walker also has a book that takes an even further investigation into ‘Why we sleep.’