Is sleep overrated?

A few of my friends live by the philosophy that “sleep is a waste of time”. But is it really? When most of us spend about one third of our lives asleep, surely it must play an important role?

Dr Robert Stickgold (Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard University) states “Most people think when you go to sleep the brain shuts off and then you wake up and go to work… but nothing can be further from the truth…sleep is important before learning and after [learning]”.

His research shows us how crucial it is to get 8 hours of regular sleep every night. If your brain is too tired you can’t take in information very well for several reasons. Firstly, the brains memory circuits become fatigued and secondly, you struggle to pay attention when you’re sleep deprived.

Stickgold has also found that the brain appears to do a lot when you’re asleep (e.g. connections in the brain are strengthened and memories are shuffled around the brain).

What else is the latest research in sleep medicine telling us?

  • Being awake for more than 24 hours straight impairs performance as much as having a blood alcohol level of 0.1% (that’s equivalent to being legally drunk!).
  • Some people are more resistant to the impact of doing an all nighter, however everyone begins to fall apart after two nights without sleep.
  • If you go without sleep for one night, you can triple your reaction time.
  • Rats that are totally deprived of sleep die in 17 to 20 days.
  • A lack of sleep is related to obesity, diabetes, immune system dysfunction and impaired judgment/productivity.
  • Can short power naps help us?
    Apparently so. Dr Stephen Amira (Behavioural sleep specialist) states that taking a nap for 20 minutes of less before 5pm can be beneficial and help us feel more energised.

    In a nutshell, you’re ability to think clearly, be happy and understand what’s going on depends on you getting enough sleep. If you want to find out more about the science of sleep, you can check out some great videos (featuring experts from Harvard University) here.

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    3 Responses to Is sleep overrated?

    1. Chris Hodson November 28, 2008 at 10:29 pm #

      Sarah normally goes to sleep at a reasonable hour. Our laptop is on pre daylight saving time. As a result tonight we get 1 hour less sleep. Oops!

    2. apple March 23, 2009 at 2:50 pm #

      I found your blog from google and read your posts. It’s fun and I just add your blog to my Google Reader.

    3. Aaron November 4, 2011 at 6:47 pm #

      I haven’t slept in a year.

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