If your mom is anything like my mom she's been telling you to go to bed since you were five.
"It's past your bedtime!!"
But Mawwwwwm, just five more minutes!
Turns out she had good reason. Like, really good.
Sleep deprivation is a huge problem. Even bigger than most people realize. Why? Well, technically - according to Matthew Walker: sleep scientist and professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley - sleep deprivation consists of getting anything less than seven hours of sleep.
You read that right: seven.
In the last 75 years the percentage of sleep deprived people in the population has increased six fold: from 8% to 50%, to be exact. So why did we start priding ourselves on how little we could sleep and how much caffeine we could consume?
The importance of sleep
Did you know that the World Health Organization classifies night time shifts as carcinogens? When our circadian rhythms are disrupted on a continual bases it can cause breast, prostate, endometrium, and colon cancer.
Sleep is so integral to brain health that it can actually be used to diagnose dementia in its early stages. In fact, adults over 45 who sleep less than six hours are 200% more likely than their well-rested peers to have a heart attack or stroke.
And if you've been awake for 19 hours? Go home, you're (the equivalent of) drunk.
To get specific lack of sleep causes:
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure, often leading to heart disease and/or stroke.
- Hyperglycemia, or the high blood sugar levels often associated with diabetes that can indicate the body is prediabetic.
- Weight gain. Lack of sleep results in an underproduction of leptin (the hormone that signals to the brain that you're full) and a simultaneous overproduction of ghrelin (the antithetical hormone which causes you to feel hungry).
- Increased risk of Alzheimers.
- A heightened state of emotional reactivity - think: Yosemite Sam.
- A relapse of addiction.
- A shortened lifespan. People sleeping only 6.75 hours on average would live till only their early 60s. 8. A low sperm count for the gents.
- Car accidents.
- Cancer (see above, re: carcinogen).
- Inability to problem solve effectively.
- Depression and an overall decline in mental health.
- Microsleep! Oh yes, it's real. We're talking brief moments of sleep that occur whilst you're awake that you have no idea are ever happening nor have any control over (remember that time you drove to work but don't know how you got there? Probably not, which is likely due to microsleep.)
- Decreased immune function.
- Increase inflammation.
- Exacerbated symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases, such as those related to IBS and Crohn's.
A little more about sleep
We sleep in cycles of 90 minutes each. Each cycle consists of both NREM (non-rapid eye movement) and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, and both are important to being fully rested. During NREM your body enters a state of deep relaxation, while your brain is processing memories and getting some much needed R&R. During REM your brain is active and actually exhibits identical patterns to being awake; the nervous system and heart muscle also go through periods of heightened activity.
Given that each cycle is 90 minutes (and your body requires several cycles to be considered well-rested) 20 minute catnaps are basically an urban myth.
So take this as your permission: go to bed!