As a society, we tend to underestimate the importance of good sleep. We think that if we have a good night’s sleep we’ll feel refreshed the next day; if we don’t we’ll feel tired, and that’s it.
If only that WAS it.
According to Matthew Walker, Director of The Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, “No aspect of our biology is left unscathed by sleep deprivation. It sinks down into every possible nook and cranny. What’s more, we’re in the middle of a catastrophic sleep-loss epidemic.”
One of the most alarming outcomes from a lack of sleep is the correlation between sleep, heart attack and stroke. Research shows that adults over 45 who get less than six hours sleep per night have a 200% greater chance of having a heart attack or stroke in their lifetime than those who sleep seven or eight hours. So that extra hour or two makes a huge difference.
Sleep also has a powerful effect on our immune system. So much so that just one night’s sleep deprivation (like a big, late night before an early start) can drastically impair our body’s resistance. If you’re tired, you’re more vulnerable to catching a cold while the well-rested respond much better to flu vaccine. A short sleep and the disruption it causes to our body’s circadian clock can actually lead to an increase in the odds of developing certain forms of cancer, like bowel, prostate and breast cancer. The World Health Organisation has also classed any form of night time shift work as a ‘possible carcinogen’.
A lack of sleep can also have an impact on our body’s control of blood sugar, making us less responsive to insulin, and more prone to pre-diabetic hyperglycaemia. In other words, when your sleep becomes short, you are more susceptible to weight gain and type II diabetes.
It’s not just your physical health that is either helped or harmed by good or bad sleep. It is, of course, your mental health too.
Too little sleep has been proven to be a contributor to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is caused in large part by amyloid deposits (toxic proteins) that form in the brain. During deep sleep, these deposits are essentially cleaned out. If you’re not sleeping enough, and therefore not reaching the deep sleep stage these deposits will build up instead of dissipating.
All the numbers prove that with sleep there is vitality and health. Without it, there is low energy and disease. More than 20 large scale studies point to the fact that the longer you sleep, the longer you live.
Here at HeadUp Labs, we can see clearly the relationship between how our users sleep and the impact it has on their lives the next day. We've been able to help demystify the complexity of sleep and help our users better understand the relationship between the stages of sleep (Awake, REM, Light and Deep). For example, by examining which nights they get the most REM sleep, we’re able to identify which day of the week they’re best equipped to solve problems and be at their most creative. We’ve been able to encourage them to develop better bedtime routines in order to promote more Deep Sleep. This is particularly important for those who are getting older because as we all age, our sleep patterns change. The time our older users spend awake increases at night by 1% each year, and so the quality of sleep becomes even more important.
So sleep well, and live well. Sleep long, and live long.
And wake up to the power of sleep.