Walk around any major city in the morning, and it’s fairly obvious that we live in a society where people aren’t sleeping well enough.
Jump on a morning train, and you’ll see commuters who woke up a few hours ago, bobbing their heads as they fall asleep again, and the yawns as the mid afternoon slump arrives.
The assault on sleep has left us tired, less effective and less productive.
As things like Parkinson’s Law shows – which says that work expands to fit the time allotted to it – simply trying to work longer hours rarely actually boosts productivity.
Instead, it’s about the quality of work, and it’s true without doubt that we work more effectively when we’re well rested.
There is also a deeply worrying surge in anxiety in children, with studies suggesting that lack of sleep, fuelled by late night social media stimulation causing insomnia is a real concern, as well as rising obesity levels.
While there is much about sleep that we are yet to discover, and many areas are shrouded in mystery, scientists are broadly in agreement that it is an essential component of both physical and mental wellbeing, and that most of us are neglecting it.
As you may know, we sleep in cycles, drifting eventually into periods of deep sleep. We need time, undisturbed to move through the different stages, and a lack of deep sleep – which makes up roughly 20% of sleep – is believed to be one of the major problems for many people. Many of us continually wake before reaching this rejuvenating stage, so even though we feel we have had enough time in bed, the sleep isn’t actually as effective as it should be. This is why you can still feel tired and groggy after a lengthy sleep.
Having a phone buzzing with vibrations is one of the major disturbances, and studies have shown that even keeping your phone in the room with you can be problematic, as the brain is unable to switch off – it’s subconsciously waiting for that next notification.
While we imagine the brain shutting down to rest, in truth, it’s actually whirring away and processing the day’s thoughts, events and experiences.
Studies have shown that good sleep improves learning and boosts long term memory.
Cortisol and stress hormones drop, giving your body a break from the hormones that can cause excessive anxiety.
Sleep also helps to remove the metabolic toxins that build up in our brains – toxins that have been linked with diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Sleep is clearly a vital part of our lives – and the lives of almost all animals – so why do we neglect it so readily?
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