We are all tired and worn out all the time. We’ve got a million things to do. There are families to be cared for, jobs to be done, bills to be paid, a house to clean, friends who need our time. This list just keeps going on and on and we don’t see an end to it in the near future. And this is actually cutting out life spans short.
Matthew Walker, a neuroscientist, has a warning for all of us. We’re damaging our bodies seriously and putting our lives in danger by sacrificing our sleep. During a TED Talk, Walker spoke about how the lack of sleep in most countries is causing an enormous catastrophe on our physical and mental well-being. While we don’t see lack of sleep as a disease, it has quietly turned into an epidemic. This is one of the biggest problems we have to solve this century and we aren’t even talking about it.
Listening to Walker’s TED talk is like a wake-up call. He elaborated in detail about how being sleep deprived can cause harm to a person. Our intelligence is dulled, we are unable to remember what we know and properly process fresh information. It increases the risk of developing dementia and cardiac disorders. Our immune systems are weakened making us more susceptible to diseases like cancer. Longevity declines and even genetic problems are caused. The brain is unable to produce estrogen and testosterone so we age faster. It even affects the size of sex organs.
Even though it doesn’t seem that way, sleep deprivation slowly creeps into every part of our bodies. It isn’t something that can be compromised. Our biology requires us to sleep. Without it, we cannot stay alive.
And we all know we’re not getting enough sleep even if we aren’t aware of the consequences. This is precisely why there’s so much clamor for sedatives and devices to track sleep. Smart beds are now in fashion and so are sleep apps. Even Alexa has options to help us sleep better. In a famous case, Arianna Huffington quit her career as a journalist to start a business focused on helping people sleep.
So what does Walker recommend to help us all sleep better? His instructions aren’t difficult to follow. We need to cut down our intake of caffeine and alcohol. Keep the room cool and stick to a strict sleep schedule, not even deviating on holidays. Rather than staying in bed agonizing over everything that’s going on, go out and do something else. Come back when you feel sleepy. Rather than depending on sedatives, practice relaxation techniques like meditation.
Through his new venture called Stim Science, in partnership with Khosla Ventures, Walker hopes to come up with a device that stimulates the transcranial direct current in the brain to help people sleep.
Unfortunately, we live in a world in which even famous and successful people have glorified the idea of sleep deprivation. Many claim to sleep very little in order to be what they are. Some, like Elon Musk, have also confessed that this is having a detrimental effect on their lives. As Walker effectively points out in his talk, lack of sleep makes us feel like we’re waterlogged. We need that time to rest and rejuvenate.
Everyone needs to take his words to heart and think about ways to improve their sleep schedules. After all, sleep does make us better at everything we do.
IMAGE CREDIT: Yulia Koltyrina