The Truth About Sleep
Considering that sleep is the single biggest activity undertaken by every human being on the planet it is remarkable that we find ourselves misunderstanding its essential function in our wellbeing and happiness. Here are some important myth busters on the way we think about sleep….
MYTH 1: I can catch up on lost sleep
Most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. But this isn’t simply for rest and rejuvenation.
Sleep is also designed to balance the timely function of our organs, process and file the memories and information we’ve collected throughout the day and assist in managing our emotions. If we accumulate a large amount of lost sleep we cannot get it back somehow.
And there are consequences.
Michael Mosley, MD, of the BBC and the University of Surrey Sleep Research Centre set up a two-week sleep study that compared the effects of six-and-a-half versus seven-and-a-half hours of sleep.
Their findings are reported in the BBC story:
Dr Simon Archer and his team at Surrey University were particularly interested in looking at the genes that were switched on or off in our volunteers by changes in the amount that we had made them sleep.
“We found that overall there were around 500 genes that were affected,” Archer explained..
When the volunteers cut back from seven-and-a-half to six-and-a-half hours’ sleep a night, genes that are associated with processes like inflammation, immune response and response to stress became more active. The team also saw increases in the activity of genes associated with diabetes and risk of cancer. The reverse happened when the volunteers added an hour of sleep.
In short, it seems there’s no quick cure to “make up” for an hour of lost sleep. As troubling as it may be to think that a morning cup of coffee cannot cure all the effects of a late night, it’s nice to know that an extra hour of sleep isn’t purely an indulgence.
Tip: Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night. (See more at: National Sleep Foundation)
MYTH 2: I don’t have time to rest. Life is too fast and demanding.
Not true! Although at times many of us feel overwhelmed with our overly-scheduled lifestyles, dashing here to there on business, exercise, hobbies, or with our children’s activities, if we remember to prioritise our health and plan in time to rest we can actually get more done, more efficiently. Sleeping for longer at night has been shown to increase our productivity the next day.
Getting enough good quality sleep is the key to accomplishing more.
In fact, according to the Harvard Medical School, 2013, sleep deprivation cost USA companies $63.2 billion in lost productivity.
“We were shocked by the enormous impact insomnia has on the average person’s life,” said lead author Ronald Kessler, a psychiatric epidemiologist and professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School. “It’s an underappreciated problem. Americans are not missing work because of insomnia. They are still going to their jobs but accomplishing less because they’re tired. In an information-based economy, it’s difficult to find a condition that has a greater effect on productivity.”
Tip: Make a commitment to ensure you get a minimum of seven hours of restful sleep each night. Doing this will increase your chances of wellbeing physical health and mental clarity as well as maximise your productivity at work.
MYTH 3: When I’m sleeping my brain is resting.
Again, not true. In fact it is quite the opposite. Studies have shown that sleep plays an important role in learning generalised skills and in stabilising and protecting memory function. Tests in Chicago compared performance after a morning of training resulted in an improvement in performance of 8%. However after 12 waking hours, the improvement dropped to 4%. After a night’s sleep there was increase in performance by 10% (study conducted by the University of Chicago 2008).
“Sleep consolidated learning by restoring what was lost over the course of a day following training and by protecting what was learned against subsequent loss,” said Howard Nusbaum, Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago, and a researcher in the study. “These findings suggest that sleep has an important role in learning generalized skills in stabilizing and protecting memory.”
Tip: When learning new skills, be sure to follow the day with a good night’s rest. Doing so will help your brain to retain and recall the information and skills learned in the future.
Getting enough and a good enough quality of sleep will help to increase your life expectancy, improve your wellbeing, consolidate learning, lower stress and anxiety, and increase productivity.
Are you finding it hard to get enough sleep? Do you suffer with lack of energy throughout or at specific times of the day? There’s lots of ways we help people with sleep issues here at The Wellbeing Centre. Whether you suffer with general insomnia or suffer from specific sleep issues like narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnoea, we can help.
We’d love to hear from you. If you’ve got any questions, thoughts or tips on sleep, please add them in the comments below.