The consequences of lack of sleep according to Dr Matthew Walker

If you’re anything like us, you love a good TED talk. In 2019, Dr Matthew Walker stepped on stage to discuss the consequences of sleep deprivation for a person. He highlighted the impacts it can have on health and lifestyle. We thought you might find his highlighted points interesting, so we’ve compiled some important takeaways here.

Who is Dr Matthew Walker?

Dr Matthew Walker is a professor of neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley. He graduated with a degree in neuroscience in Nottingham, then achieved a PhD in neurophysiology from the Medical Research Council in London. He then went to Harvard Medical School, where he was a professor in psychiatry.

Dr Walker is a founding member and director of the Centre for Human Sleep Science. His research to date includes examining the impact of sleep on a person’s health. He’s earned a number of awards, including from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

He’s conducted over a hundred research studies in how sleep affects people.

Lack of sleep is damaging our health

Dr Walker says sleep is a non-negotiable biological necessity. That means if you don’t have it, you’ll die. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get eight hours of sleep, and says anything below six can be detrimental to our health and wellbeing. Considered a sleep evangelist, Dr Walker told Terry Gross on ‘Fresh Air’ that “every disease in developing nations that is killing us has both casual and significant links to lack of sleep”.

The benefits of good sleep include increased concentration, lower blood pressure, higher immunity, and added fertility, along with positive mood regulation, and much more. Lack of sleep causes many issues to our health, including increasing our risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart attacks. Sleep deprivation is so damaging, the World Health Organisation declared night time shift work as a probable carcinogen.

The impact of sleep deprivation on our quality of life

“For many adults, sleep has been stigmatised as a label of laziness, but why is this? We would never consider looking at sleeping babies and consider them lazy, in fact, we say they probably need that nap.” – Dr Walker.

Dr Walker thinks sleep is so important that we should listen to our body when it tells us it’s time to get some shut-eye.

Lack of sleep can impact the way we go about our lives. So why do we forfeit it when we’re busy, when it means we can’t do the other things we need to do properly? We need a mindshift. Sleep should be a priority, not a ‘nice to have’.

Your central nervous system is a motorway for information in your body. Sleep keeps the traffic running and functioning. Lack of sleep causes congestions. To function properly, you must keep that motorway moving with a good night of sleep.

5 Things that could be impacting our sleep

Dr Walker highlights five key things that could be impacting your sleep. They’re all things you can change to improve your sleep quality.

  • Your level of technological consumption might be impacting your sleep, as its use has been proven to assist a person’s suffering with regards to cognitive, physical, emotional and psychological stress, which can all affect sleeping patterns.
  • Lighting can impact sleep quite significantly. Your body needs darkness to produce melatonin, which triggers the onset of sleep. You need to consider lighting several hours before you go to sleep, and certainly no later than one hour before. Switch out your regular light bulbs with ones that filter out blue light, if you can.
  • Dr Walker also mentions temperature. Your bedroom should be cool if possible. A good way to keep yourself cool during sleep is by buying a breathable mattress.
  • If you’re struggling to sleep for twenty minutes or more, or if you wake up early and are tossing and turning, Dr Walker recommends getting up. Walk around for a while, or switch on a dim light and focus on something else. Try to go back to sleep when you feel tired. This changes and reengages your brain’s association with the bed. You’ve essentially hit the reset button.
  • Avoid caffeine. A standard dose of coffee reduces the amount of deep sleep you’ll experience by twenty percent. That’s the equivalent of aging you ten to fifteen years. Caffeine stays in your system for twelve hours. You might think it doesn’t impact you, but if you give it up, you might be surprised by how much your sleep quality improves.

Good sleep starts with your mattress. Ely mattresses help regulate body temperature, and are hypoallergenic.Mattresses come with a ten year warranty, and you can take advantage of the thirty night sleep trial. For more information, read about our thirteen layers.

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