Lack of energy is the most common health complaint amongst adults and lack of sleep may be to blame.
The Royal Society for Public Health reports that although adults need on average 7.7 hours per night, most of us sleep for 6.8 hours, which is almost one full night’s sleep lost every single week.
During sleep a number of important things happen to our bodies:
- Our body restores and repairs itself.
- Our brains detox – when we sleep our brain cells shrink by 60%, for fluid to wash away cellular ‘rubbish’ .
- Our brains are more ‘plastic’ (able to change) aiding learning and memory consolidation and helping us come up with novel solutions to complex problems.
This Cumulative Sleep Debt impairs all aspects of our performance by up to 50%, including memory, creativity, decision making, reaction time and judgment. As Neuroscientist Russell Foster puts it ‘If you don’t sleep you don’t fly’ and you won’t ultimately win.
However, it’s not just about making sure we are at the top of our game with a good night’s sleep. Sleep debt can be responsible for us making serious mistakes. For example, the investigations into the Challenger, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island disasters cited tiredness caused by sleep debt and circadian (body clock) disruption as the cause for the human error and poor judgement. These are by no means isolated cases.
So sleep isn’t just a nice thing to do, it’s a must when it comes to our performance and well being.