The following article was inspired by an excerpt from the book Younger for Longer by Dr Duncan Carmichael
“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.”
Sleep brings phenomenal restorative benefits to the body, and without those the body is unable to heal itself. Sleep is a complex and mysterious activity that occupies around a third of our lives. Despite extensive research, scientists still do not fully understand the mechanisms that trigger sleep, nor the important physiological processes that occur during it. It is now widely recognized that sleep is essential to our health, as it plays a critical role in memory consolidation, learning, and mental and physical restoration.
Although there are exceptions, such as people who can function on very little sleep, the vast majority of us require a certain amount of sleep to stay healthy. In fact, the brain actively forces us to sleep when we try to resist it, much like how it forces us to breathe or drink water when we hold our breath or become thirsty. Sleep deprivation can have serious consequences, as demonstrated by the example of Fatal Familial Insomnia, a genetic disorder that causes hallucinations, dementia, and death within months.
For most of us, the danger of sleep deprivation is not as extreme, but it is still a serious concern. Studies have shown that getting less than seven hours of sleep per night can lead to impaired cognitive function, increased risk of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and obesity. Even short-term sleep apnoea, a condition where the airway repeatedly closes during sleep, can have harmful effects on the body.
In summary, sleep is a vital activity that our bodies require to function optimally. While the amount of sleep needed varies between individuals, most adults require between seven and nine hours of sleep per night to maintain their health. Without adequate sleep, our cognitive and physical abilities suffer, and our risk of developing a wide range of illnesses increases.