Sleep Deprivation Could Shave Years Off Your Life

Too little sleep is making us sick.

In an interview with The Guardian, Matthew Walker, Director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, explains how.

Through his work, he’s determined that people who don’t get enough sleep tend to be less healthy and have lower energy levels than those who get the recommended amount of shut eye per night. After analyzing the results of 20 separate studies, he’s found a strong correlation between how much people sleep and how long they live. In summary: The less you sleep, the shorter your life will be.

This is a problem, particularly because many of us are conditioned to equate sleep with laziness. “We want to seem busy, and one way we express that is by proclaiming how little sleep we’re getting,” he told The Guardian. “It’s a badge of honor.” When he gives talks, he says people will wait until afterwards to whisper to them that they need eight or nine hours of sleep at night, similar to how someone might confess a crime. But they shouldn’t — they’re the ones making the healthier choice.

In one study, for instance, adults age 45 and older that slept less than 6 hours each night were 200% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke during their lifetime compared to participants who got seven or eight hours. In other studies, sleeping less has been associated with an increased risk of weight gain, developing Alzheimers, and relapses in addition disorders. On a basic level, lack of sleep also lowered participants’ immune systems.

“I’m not going to say that the obesity crisis is caused by the sleep-loss epidemic alone,” says Walker. “It’s not. However, processed food and sedentary lifestyles do not adequately explain its rise. Something is missing. It’s now clear that sleep is that third ingredient.”

Walker’s suggestion for people: Avoid pulling all-nighters. After you’ve been awake for 19 hours you’re essentially as cognitively impaired as a drunk person. Also, think of sleep like a job. Just like going to the gym, you need to make sure you go to bed.

“People use alarms to wake up,” Walker told The Guardian. “So why don’t we have a bedtime alarm to tell us we’ve got half an hour, that we should start cycling down?”

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