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Why We Sleep: 22 Facts You Should Know About Sleep

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Exploring the crucial role of sleep in physical, mental, and emotional well-being, inspired by Matthew Walker's book "Why We Sleep."

Unequivocally, we are all guilty of this. The most underappreciated activity or action we take for granted is sleep’. Brace yourself for a list of facts you should know about sleep.

We came into the world having spent the previous 9 months sleeping. In the first few months of life, we sleep. However, as we progress through life, we cheat sleep, be it intentionally or unintentionally. Sleep loses out all the time when that imaginary coin toss takes place. This post on facts you should know about sleep will send a thunderbolt through your spine.

As an athlete, coaches and medical staff often advised me that I was not getting enough sleep; my classic response was ‘I do not have enough time’. Owing to my studies needing to be done, so losing a few hours of sleep would not hurt.

In the back of my mind, I have always known that I needed sleep, especially the more I trained; sufficient sleep was required to recover, repair and build. This is just talking about my physical state with no consideration for my brain or mental development.

Facts You Should Know About Sleep: Lady Sleeping on Sofa with Laptop and Clock in Background

 

Scientist or neuroscientist behind the facts

I recently came across Matthew Walker’s book ‘Why We Sleep’, which presents new science on sleep and dreams. The book has been cleverly written to educate whilst at the same time taking you on a journey as to why we sleep, the benefits of sleep and the consequences of lack of sleep.

Matthew Walker is a world-renowned neuroscientist and sleep expert with over two decades of research. To outline Matthew’s credentials, he has worked with NASA, NBA, NFL, the British Premier League, Pixar Animations, government agencies (around the world), top financial and technology companies, television programmes and documentaries as a sleep consultant.

Journeying through the book took me to the precipice on the topic of sleep, with a humble dose of reality during my descent and a rumbling need to improve. In Matthew Walker’s own view;

Sleep lost inflict such devastating effect on the brain, linking it to numerous neurological and psychiatric conditions (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, suicide, and chronic pain).

Sleep deficiency affects every psychological system of the body, further contributing to countless diseases (e.g., cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, infertility, weight gain, obesity, and immune deficiency).

He outlines that no side of the human body is spared the crippling, noxious sleep harm. As you will see, we are socially, organisationally, economically, physically, behaviorally, nutritionally, linguistically, cognitively, and emotionally dependent upon sleep.

Facts You Should Know About Sleep

Here is a list of facts you should know about sleep taken from his book;

  1. One out of every two adults across all developed countries (approximately 800 million people) will not get the necessary sleep they need this coming week.
  2. Two-thirds of adults throughout all developed nations failed to obtain the recommended eight hours of nightly sleep.
  3. Starving or deliberately fasting will force you to sleep less, as the brain is tricked into thinking food has suddenly become scares.
  4. In REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement sleep: is the dream state), the brain completely paralyses all voluntary muscles of the body, leaving you utterly limbless.
  5. Older adults needing less sleep is a myth, stemming from specific observations that, to some scientists, suggest that an eighty-year-old, say, simply needs less sleep than a 50-year old.
  6. Poor sleep is one of the most underappreciated factors contributing to cognitive and medical ill-health in the elderly, including issues of diabetes, depression, chronic pain, strokes, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
  7. William Shakespeare’s Macbeth in 1611, act two, scene two, Shakespear outlined all the discoveries regarding sleep that was to come. He prophetically states that sleep is “the chief nourisher in life’s feast.” Shakespeare knew all about the wonders of sleep.
  8. Sleep improves your memory by preparing your brain for making new memories and by cementing the new memories to ensure they are not forgotten.
  9. After a good night’s sleep, you regain access to memories that you could not retrieve before sleep. In effect, you salvage the memory that appeared to be lost.
  10. After sleep is lost, optimum performance will not return after a good long night of recovery sleep. This is similar to many people’s notion of “sleeping it off” at the weekends to pay off their weeknight sleep debt. Even after prolonged ad-lib recovery sleep, performance does not return compared to those with eight hours of sleep regularly.
  11. The human mind cannot sense how sleep deprived it is when sleep is deprived.
  12. Lots of accidents are caused by sleepiness each year worldwide.
  13. Drunk drivers are often late in breaking and late in making evasive manoeuvres. More disturbing is when you fall asleep or have a microsleep, you stop reacting altogether.
  14. Neither a nap nor caffeine can salvage more complex brain functions, including learning, memory, emotional stability, complex reasoning, or decision-making, when sleep is lost.
  15. Memory formed without sleep is weaker memory, they evaporate quickly.
  16. Sleep fights against infection and sickness by using the strength of your immune system. With less sleep, your immune system is weakened and cannot fight against cold and flu, leaving you exposed.
  17. Due to the current sleep neglect circulating throughout all developed nations, the World Health Organisation now labels the lack of societal sleep as a global health epidemic.
  18. The less you sleep, the more likely you are to overeat. In addition, your body cannot manage those calories effectively, especially the concentration of sugar in the body.
  19. At three years of age, sleeping just 10 and half hours or less, you will have a 45% increased risk of being obese by the age of seven than those who get 12 hours of sleep a night. Setting our children on a path of ill-health this early in life through sleep neglect is a travesty.
  20. Sleeping below the recommended hours makes you emotionless; you simply exist rather than live.
  21. Sleeping pills do not provide sleep, can damage health, increase the risk of life-threatening diseases.
  22. Natural sleep helps commit new memory traces within the brain.

Thinking about ducking sleep? Before making that decision, I suggest you consider these facts you should know about sleep. I will present more insights from Matthew Walker’s book in the coming months!

 

Sources

  • Matthew Walker “Why We Sleep” Waterstones [Accessed 15 April 2022]

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