Sleep When You’re Dead? The Importance of Sleep

What do we know about the importance of sleep?

“There will be plenty of time to sleep when you’re dead,” said Benjamin Franklin, inventor and one of America’s founding fathers.
Of course, if you follow that logic too closely, you might die sooner. European researchers have found that people who sleep six hours or less each night were 12 percent more likely to die prematurely.

Why does sleep matter so much?

Getting six to eight hours of sleep isn’t just about getting ‘beauty sleep’ or staying awake during the day; experts know that your brain is actually pretty busy during those hours of downtime:

  • It processes your experiences from the previous day
  • It helps your memory catalogue information
  • It triggers the release of important hormones.

When you skimp on sleep, it has a direct impact on your concentration, creativity, mood and — of course — your ability to be productive. But that’s not all: Those important hormones noted above help regulate everything from weight to behaviour to mental and physical health. Researchers previously believed that sleeplessness was a symptom of mental health disorders. But more recent research shows that lack of sleep is a serious risk factor and may even be a cause, not a result, of several psychiatric disorders. For example, research has shown a strong correlation between sleep problems and depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Suddenly that all-nighter seems a lot less tempting

German sleep expert Till Roenneberg calls the disconnect between our internal clocks and our lifestyle “social jetlag”; we sleep in when we can, but drag ourselves out of bed when we have to wake to an alarm clock. Those painful mornings happen, Roenneberg explained, because as far as our body is concerned it’s supposed to be the middle of the night. It’s not ready to get up yet. As a result, he says, we pick up other bad habits — like drinking too much coffee — that can also lead to health problems.

Seven ways to reset your internal clock

Stevenson, Waplak & Associates offer sleep assistance, but U.S.-based National Sleep Foundation offers the following do-it-yourself tips:

  •  Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, even on the weekends
  • Developing a regular, relaxing bedtime routine
  • Using your bedroom only for sleep and sex; if you do this, you will strengthen the association between bed and sleep
  • Create a sleep environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and slightly cool
  • Removing all work materials, televisions, phones, and other distractions from the bedroom
  • Avoiding caffeine in the second half of the day
  • Limiting alcohol – it can disturb sleep

For some people, these steps may be enough to get your sleep-deprived body back on track. If you think you may need extra help, however, please connect with us on Twitter or call 613-967-0545.