Sleep Expert & Neuroscientist Matthew Walker's new book 'Why We Sleep' invites us all to reclaim our right to a full night of sleep.
We couldn't agree more. Here are just three of the ways he outlines where sleep helps us to stay healthy.
1. Sleep supercharges the brain
Sleep boosts your brain power. As well as helping your brain make sense of events of the day, a good night sleep also helps you to learn more effectively. Studies have shown that having a good night's sleep before you learn new information helps you to retain it. During the night your brain files memories and organises data. In doing so it frees up space for new inputs. Basically, sleep well and you wake up with headspace and so are ready to learn. Sleeping well the night after learning new info helps your brain turn this new knowledge in to embedded memories. The get fired away so that are then there for you to recall and use when you need them (Walker called it 'memory future-proofing'). Sleeping well is the smart thing to do it seems.
2. Sleep helps our heart stay healthy
Unhealthy sleep, unhealthy heart. Nice and easy to remember and, when you look at the facts, this simple summary is scarily true. Missed sleep means our heart rate never gets a rest. What's more, as our body becomes sleep deprived it craves sleep so much that it releases the stress hormone, cortisol. Our blood vessels contracts and our blood pressure actually increases, putting our vital organs under even more pressure. According to Walker - adults aged 45 and over who sleep fewer than 6 hrs a night are 200% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those who sleep 7-8 hrs. Sleeping well isn't optional - it's the foundation for a healthy life.
3. Sleep helps us fight disease
Ever wondered why we feel tired when we get ill? It's because our immune and repair systems work best when we are sleeping. While we sleep, growth hormones are released. They help renew every cell in our body - from our skin to our vital organs. Sleep is the downtime our body needs to do its internal housekeeping and keep us functioning. As well as repair, sleep is when our immune system goes in to overdrive, fighting any potential threats from infection or sickness before they take hold. If we lack sleep, our body quickly becomes immunologically weaker and less able to fend off of fight off disease. Studies have shown that this makes us vulnerable to every day diseases such as the common cold but also makes it harder for our bodies to fight off cancer cells. Sleep is our body's way of keeping us fighting fit and disease free.
Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker - available from amazon.com and all good bookshops.