Everyone can tell you that we need eight hours of sleep each night. So, why don’t we actually do it? The answer is that we don’t truly believe we need it. But the truth is we do need it. Allow me to prove it to you here.
Wakefulness is low level brain damage. It is sleep that repairs the brain. Insufficient sleep is the most significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
If you have ever been severely sleep deprived you may have experienced hallucinations. These hallucinations are the brains attempts to undergo REM phase sleep (dream sleep). Dream sleep is so necessary that without it, sleep deprived people actually dream while they are awake. It is also for this reason that alcoholics hallucinate because alcohol suppresses REM (dreaming) sleep.
It isn’t just the brain that needs sleep. Sleeping for less than six hours is associated with a 12% increased risk of death. In one study, adults that slept less than 6 hours each night were 200% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke during their lifetime.
Hospitals actually report a 24% increase in heart attacks the day we lose an hour of sleep for daylight savings. When we change the clocks back at the end of daylight savings we all gain an hour of sleep and hospitals see a 21% decrease in heart attacks. That is how susceptible the body is to just one hour of sleep lost or gained.
For Performance and Efficiency
It’s clear that lack of sleep decreases overall cognitive ability. Tests have shown that the performance of someone with sleep deprivation is as bad as someone with a blood alcohol of 0.05%.
But wouldn’t we notice if we were going to work effectively drunk all the time? The problem is that sleep deprivation impairs your brain’s ability to assess your own performance and efficiency. So when you’re sleep deprived you’re too tired to see how badly you’re doing.
Every year 3% of GDP is lost as a result of decreased productivity and the health costs of sleep deprivation. In Australia that is $49 billion. So my question is, are we not sleeping enough because we are too busy or are we busy because we are tired and inefficient?
Think of the Children
The effects of sleep deprivation is even greater on kids. Teenagers famously have a delayed body clock and require an extra hour of sleep. Studies of schools that pushed back their start times to allow students more time for sleep showed improved attendance and significantly higher exam results.
There are other astonishing effect of delayed school start times. Schools saw a 70% reduction in driving deaths with later start times. For comparison, ABS brakes (a revolutionary car safety feature now mandatory in all new cars) reduced motoring deaths by 20%. Allowing students to get a bit of extra sleep before driving to school saved three times as many lives as this automotive revolution. In fact, drowsy driving kills more people than alcohol and drugs combined.
Are You Convinced?
Sleep really is inconvenient. It is 8 hours of the day we can’t work, build, eat, protect ourselves, look after children and reproduce. However, it is absolutely worth it. Have a think about what you can do to ensure you get a full night of sleep and how productive you might be if you did.
Scott Leabeater is The Backstory Chiropractic’s Principal Chiropractor. Scott uses up to date research literature to guide an evidence based approach to diagnosis and treatment. His unique professionalism and knowledge has made Scott highly sought after. Throughout his career he has treated everyone from local office workers to Olympic athletes. Scott is an AHPRA registered Chiropractor and member of Chiropractic Australia.