Recent studies show that two-thirds of people get enough sleep and the consequences of this are massive, including an increased risk of developing cancer, dementia and heart disease.
A recent poll asked the question: do you think you get enough sleep? Yes 15%, no 85%.
Why do we sleep?
We sleep for an abundant constellation of nighttime benefits. We used to ask the question what is the purpose of sleep as if there was one single function. That’s the equivalent of saying why are we awake. We’re awake for lots of reasons. The same is true for sleep
In fact now we’ve had to spend that question and ask is there any process within your brain or any tissue or organ within your body that doesn’t benefit from sleep.
The answer seems to be no. So it really is the bedrock of your health.
You should prioritize sleep above everything. It’s part of that equation of a balanced life, together with diet and exercise. Doctors used to say that sleep was the third pillar of good health alongside those two other things. But the evidence actually says that’s not true. It’s the foundation on which those two other things sit.
For example, if you’re trying to lose weight and manage your body weight, 70% of all the weight that you lose will come from muscle and not fat, if you’re not getting sufficient sleep. Because your body becomes stingy in giving up that fat when you are under slept. So dieting becomes ineffective.
Also when you try to exercise, you exercise in a far less efficient way, you don’t burn the same number of calories and if you’re underslept, you are far more likely to go through injury risk. You can’t sustain your peak physical activity without sleep.
So it really is that foundation, it’s not a third pillar!
Many diseases that are killing us in the developed world have links to a lack of sleep. That list includes cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease, stroke.
It’s fascinating as you see this pernicious erosion of sleep time across the last century, we see many of these diseases escalate.
It does not mean that they’re all simply related to a lack of sleep, but that sleep plays a huge role of that disease equation.
In the last 70 years, there is a sleep loss epidemic. In the last 70 years, we have began to sleep less, we’ve cut off a huge chunk of our sleep.
In 1942, they did a great survey and they found that the average adult was sleeping 7.9 hours a night. Now we know that number is closer to six and a half hours a night during the week for most adults.
A mother nature over millions of years of evolution has programmed us to need that eight hours. Over such a short space of time, we’ve shaved 20% off the amount of time we sleep and that has to be having a massive detriment.
It took mother nature 4.4 million years to put this thing called the necessity of an eight-hour night of sleep in place and within the space of 80-90 years we’ve taken away 20% of that need. How could that not come with deleterious sickness and disease consequences. That’s exactly what we’re seeing.
The problem is that you can’t get lost sleep back. You cannot catch up on your sleep.
Wouldn’t it be lovely to think that sleep was like the bank, that you could accumulate a debt and then hope to pay it off at a point in time. It’s not like that. We now know that you can’t get back that which you’ve lost.
If I deprived you of sleep for an entire night, you will try to sleep longer the second night, but you will never make up that eight hours that I took away. There is no credit system in the brain where you could store up sleep and then spend it when you go into debt.
Top Five Tips For a Healthy Night’s Sleep
1, Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Regularity is absolutely key.
2. Keep your bedroom dark. We are a dark deprived society in this modern era and we need darkness to release a hormone called melatonin that helps the timing of our sleep. In the last hour or two before bed, stay away from screens and dim down half of the lights in the house. You don’t need them all blazing right up to the point where you go to bed.
3. Cool bedroom about 18.5 degrees C. It’s colder than most people think, but your body needs to drop its temperature by about one degree Celsius to initiate sleep and that’s the reason you’ll always find it easier to fall asleep in a room that’s too cold than too hot. Sleeping in these antimicrobial bed sheets infused with silver is really amazing.
4. Don’t lie in bed awake. It’s a common mistake people make. What happens if you lie in bed awake too long, your brain learns the association that being in bed is about being awake. You need to break that association, get out of bed, do something else, and only come back to bed when you are sleepy.
5. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Most people know that caffeine is a stimulant. Even after 12 hours, a quarter of that caffeine remains. So that would be like having a coffee at noon and then by midnight, quarter of it is still there. Alcohol fragments your sleep. It also blocks your dream sleep.