Sleep is important. What else is new.
Everybody knows the feeling of having slept badly or too little. But what ist still grossly underestimated, is the enormous impact on our health that goes with that feeling. Did you know for instance that sleep experts are talking about a “silent epidemic”? Sleep is the most important way to regenerate and thus nothing you should neglect. You consider people who sleep little and work (and party) hard somewhat cool? Think again.
What is wrong with our sleep?
Artificial light, coffee, late-night television, working too much or too late is messing up our natural rhythm. But hey, not sleeping a lot isn’t that bad, is it? We can catch up on the weekend, right? Sleeping little is still considered somewhat positive. By stating that you work a lot and only sleep a few hours every night (and claiming you don’t need more) you are showing your mental strength, determination and willpower.
Being proud of little sleep
What do Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Tim Cook and Elon Musk have in common? They all claim to sleep just 4-5 hours every night. And don’t we all kinda think “Wow, those achievers, I wish I could be as productive, diligent and strong-willed.”? You most definitely shouldn’t. Elon Musk was the only one honest enough to recently admit that the lack of sleep was taking its toll on his physical and mental health.
How bad is it really?
At a TED talk in Vancouver in 2019, sleep expert Matthew Walker from the UC Berkeley presented a very clear view of how bad sleep deprivation is. Obviously, to little sleep has a catastrophic effect on your mental and physical health. Sleeping problems make us more forgetful, unable to learn new things and more vulnerable to dementia and heart attacks. Too little sleep makes your immune system weak, the risk for cancer rises and pain is more painful. It leads to premature aging and a decline in the production of sex hormones. The perhaps most graphic fact: Men who sleep only 5 hours per night obviously have visibly smaller testicles than men who sleep 7 hours a night.
What can you do?
So, let’s say you are already trying your best to get enough sleep. You have figured out that it’s neither cool nor tough to sleep less than 7 hours a night. You are going to bed early, you’re always the first one to shut off your computer and the first one to leave the pub. But still you’re having trouble falling asleep.
What does sleep-expert Matthew Walker tell you?
- Don’t drink coffee or alcohol.
- Try to have a regular sleep-wake-cycle no matter the day of the week.
- Sleep in a cool room. (18 degrees Celsius is a good temperature for falling asleep)
- Only go to your bedroom when you are tired. Lying in bed wide awake will make things more difficult.
- Meditate to reach a calm state of mind
- Don’t use sleeping pills since they don’t let you have real, natural, recreative sleep.
In addition to the list above, there are also technological aids that can help you with your sleep: Smart beds, sleep tracking devices, mindfulness sleep apps. Another new possibility is the use of mobile light therapy: By activating yourself in the morning and during the day, your body is more prepared to sleep at nighttime.
No matter how you do it: Sleep should be the absolute number one on our health agenda!
"Sleep is your superpower": A TED talk by Matthew Walker