Lack of sleep is one of the commonest maladies affectingthe modern work force. A leading sleep scientist has explored the whys and wherefores of sleep and why is it that very few people actually get enough sleep at night? Matthew Walker, a professor at University of California, Berkeley and director of the institution’s Center for Human Sleep Science, warns that this lack of sleep could be dangerous is more ways than one leading to an increased risk of several life-threatening ailments.
Walker in his own words said that the world needs to be more aware of lack of sleep and its consequences. He said this is not taken seriously enough. All people and employers should know the value of adequate sleep he explained.
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Sleep loss costs the UK economy more than £30bn a year in lost revenue which makes up for 2 percent of the GDP he noted. He added that NHS funding could be doubled if sleep were mandated among the population.
He went on to say the lack of sleep is linked to several dreaded conditions and diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. It is necessary that all should get their recommended eight hours of sleep or more he said. Walker said in his interview, “No aspect of our biology is left unscathed by sleep deprivation.” Lack of sleep penetrates “every nook and cranny” of our body he said. He called for major changes in the communities, workplaces and at homes too. Walker is an author of a soon-to-be-released book termed Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams.
Matthew Walker has been studying sleep and what happens when someone lacks sleep for nearly two decades now. He blamed industrialization and busy work schedules for lack of sleep in most individuals. He noted that less than half of the population is getting six hours or less sleep a night, every night. Over the past 75 years, the sleep patterns have changed he explained. In 1942, only 8 percent of the population survived on six hours or less of sleep per night. Electrification “of the night” he said is a great detriment to sleep. Then there are longer work hours and longer commute times. The free time left is spent with family and for personal entertainment and relaxation. What is the most expendable of all is the time spent sleeping, he explained. Anxiety too is a detriment to sleep. He called today’s communities “lonelier (and) more depressed,” who indulge in the known hurdles to sleep such as caffeine and alcohol. This is a stark difference from the past.
Another issue Walker brought to attention was a stigma around people who made it a point to sleep eight hours or more. These persons are often labeled “lazy” among their colleagues and most people think not getting enough sleep is the “done” thing and are not willing to admit that they suffer from lack of sleep. He added that humans are the only species among all animals that deprive themselves of sleep for no reason whatsoever.
Walker advises that all of us should target to spend eight hours or more sleeping and ensure that any type of an “all-nighter” never happens either related to work or to entertainment. Maintaining a set time to go to bed and waking up helps maintain a routine he added.