There are now strong indications that if you’re not getting a full night sleep, you won’t just be tired the next day; you certainly be doing tremendous harm to your body.
A leading expert has disclosed that “catastrophic sleep-loss epidemic” is causing a host of potentially fatal diseases.
In an interview with the Guardian, Professor Matthew Walker, director of the Centre for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, said that sleep deprivation affected “every aspect of our biology” and was widespread in modern society.
Walker and his group reportedly went through several studies which all found that sleeping less resulted in a shorter lifespan.
The sleep scientist also said he has spent the last four and a half years writing Why We Sleep, a complex but urgent book that examines the effects of this epidemic close up, the idea being that once people know of the powerful links between sleep loss and, among other things, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and poor mental health, they will try harder to get the recommended eight hours a night (sleep deprivation, amazing as this may sound to Donald Trump types, constitutes anything less than seven hours).
His words: “No aspect of our biology is left unscathed by sleep deprivation.
“It sinks down into every possible nook and cranny. And yet no one is doing anything about it. Things have to change: in the workplace and our communities, our homes and families.
“But when did you ever see an NHS poster urging sleep on people? When did a doctor prescribe, not sleeping pills, but sleep itself? It needs to be prioritised, even incentivised.
“Sleep loss costs the UK economy over £30bn a year in lost revenue, or 2 per cent of GDP. I could double the NHS budget if only they would institute policies to mandate or powerfully encourage sleep.”
“Once you know that after just one night of only four or five hours’ sleep, your natural killer cells – the ones that attack the cancer cells that appear in your body every day – drop by 70 percent, or that a lack of sleep is linked to cancer of the bowel, prostate and breast, or even just that the World Health Organisation has classed any form of night-time shift work as a probable carcinogen, how could you do anything else?”
While health-care workers, employers and politicians all needed to pay greater attention to the benefits of sleep, Walker said people needed to do so on an individual level.
“No one wants to give up time with their family or entertainment, so they give up sleep instead,” he said.
“And anxiety plays a part. We’re a lonelier, more depressed society.
“Alcohol and caffeine are more widely available. All these are the enemies of sleep.”