Sleep Less And Live Shorter: What You Need To Know About Sleep
Apr 28, 2023
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You're probably sick of politicians or entrepreneurs bragging about how little sleep they need each day. But did you know that not getting enough sleep is bad for our bodies and brains.
Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, explains why you shouldn't envy those "night owls." He also wrote the book "Why We Sleep", which may change the way you live, or make you live longer.
Walker understands that people are busy, that there are only 24 hours in a day, and that schedules tend to be packed. But, looking at the evidence, it's a little weird that we don't make an effort to get a few extra hours of sleep each day.
Why is sleep important?
Epidemiological studies of millions of people tell us the same truth: the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life.
So if you want to live a long, healthy life as long as possible, you should get enough sleep.
Sleep should be the health care system we all dream of: it's the most democratic, it's free, and it's a medicine that doesn't taste bad at all.
In fact, sleep is so beneficial that Professor Walker is already lobbying doctors to prescribe it.
However, for sleep to work best, it must occur naturally. Numerous studies have linked sleeping pills to an increased risk of cancer, infection and death.
What happens to our body and mind if we don't sleep?
Many diseases are associated with lack of sleep. For example, Alzheimer's, cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and even suicide.
Sleep can completely "repair" our body and mind.
How much sleep do you need each night to stay healthy?
In short: seven to nine hours.
If you get less than 7 hours of sleep, your immune system and your cognitive abilities will start to suffer. After 20 straight hours of sobriety, you are affected as if you were drunk.
One of the problems with sleep deprivation is that you don't realize the damage it's doing to you at the time. It's like a drunk man grabs his car keys and leaves a bar, insisting "I'm not drunk, really not."
Why are we sleeping less and less?
If we look at data from industrialized countries, we see a clear trend: over the past 100 years, we have been sleeping less.
If we sleep less, it is harder for us to enter the REM (rapid eye movement) phase. Interfering with REM is very detrimental because it is so vital to our creativity, but also to our mental health.
There are several reasons why people are sleeping less and less.
1. Insufficient knowledge. The scientific community knows how important a good night's sleep is, but so far it hasn't been effectively communicated to the general public. Most people don't understand why sleep is important.
2. The pace of life. In general, we work longer hours and spend more time commuting. We leave the house early and come back late, and we also want to spend time with family and friends, watch TV...in the end, we all eat up time and sacrifice sleep.
3. Attitudes and perceptions. Sleeping has an image problem. If you tell someone you got nine hours of sleep, they might think you're lazy. As a result, many people brag about how little sleep they get each night. Still, no one would argue that babies who sleep through the night are lazy, because we know sleep is absolutely necessary for their development. However, this concept changes as we age.
4. Environment. Now we live in a world that lacks darkness. However, we need darkness to release a hormone called melatonin that helps us fall asleep peacefully. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of social progress is that we are constantly under the influence of artificial light. With the birth of LED screens, this situation is exacerbated.
5. Temperature. Another unintended side effect of social progress: We no longer experience the natural transformation of cold and heat within 24 hours. We all want a warm home environment, but we also need a little coolness to put us in sleep mode. Our brains and bodies need to lower our core temperature, by about 1°C, so we can relax and fall asleep in a natural way. Most of us turn our heating too hot: if you want to sleep well, you should turn the temperature in your home to 18ºC at night.
Get a good night's sleep. If you feel that you are very tired the next day, you may wish to use BP Smartwatch to see how your sleep quality is at night, so as to take corresponding measures.