Why is sleep so underrated?
Sleep is important. Ridiculously so, It's the most important you can do for your health before diet and exercise. Yet, too often sleep is neglected and taken for granted. What are the consequences of neglecting sleep, and why do we take it for granted?
In his book "Why we sleep", Mathew Walker details the evolutionary history of sleeping, and the biological effects of sleeping, and not sleeping. Walker shows there are many benefits to getting a full night's sleep. Sleep helps to improve our memory and cognitive function. While we sleep, our brains consolidate and process the information we have learned throughout the day, making it easier for us to remember and retain new information. Walker argues that sleep is a necessary part of the process of committing information to long term memory.
In addition, sleep is important for our physical health. When we sleep, our bodies repair and regenerate cells and tissues, helping to keep our immune systems strong and our bodies healthy. Sleep is also important for regulating our metabolism, appetite, as well as make it easier to eat more healthy food which can help to prevent weight gain.
But despite the many benefits of sleep, many of us are not getting enough of it. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep per night, but many of us fall short of this goal. In fact the WHO has declared lack of sleep an epidemic.
While there are a lot of benefits for getting enough sleep, on the flip side not getting enough sleep comes with a lot of health impairments. One of the most immediate effects of not getting enough sleep is that we may feel tired and lethargic during the day. Our energy levels and concentration can suffer, making it difficult for us to stay alert and focused on our tasks. As a result, our productivity can decline and we may struggle to perform at our best.
Not getting enough sleep also have longer-term effects on our health. Walker shows how sleeping 6-7 hours a night instead of the recommended 7-9 hours a night causes
- Reduction of immune system
- Doubling the risk of cancer
- Is a key lifestyle factor in determining if you develop Alzheimer's
- Disrupts blood sugar levels to the extend that you will be declared pre-diabetic
- Increases likelihood of blockage in coronary arteries, cardiovascular disease, stroke and congestive heart failure.
- Contributes to all major psychiatric conditions: Depression, anxiety, suicidality.
- Promotes hormones that make us eat more; even when we are full.
Moreover, he shows that it's not sufficient to catch up on sleep on the weekends. If sleep deprived, you will first catch up on NREM sleep and sleep for longer, then on the following days you will catch up on REM sleep. However, you will never completely catch up the lost sleep. Moreover, sleep deprivation is additive, so if you sleep one hour less every night for a week, it's the same as not sleeping for one full night.
But why despite the many health benefits of sleep is it so neglected?
One of the reasons why sleep is neglected under capitalism is because of the emphasis on productivity and constant work. In our society, being busy and productive is often seen as a sign of success, and many people strive to work as much as possible in order to be successful and achieve their goals. This can lead to people working long hours and neglecting their need for sleep in order to get more work done. Moreover, in hustle culture, it's seen as a status symbol to be chronically sleep deprived. Sleep is seen as a luxury, something that can be put off or neglected in order to prioritize other things such as work. This is not just true in hustle culture, but also particularly true for people who are struggling to make ends meet and may be working multiple jobs or long hours in order to make a living. For these people, sleep can become a low priority as they focus on making money and meeting their basic needs.
Another reason why sleep is neglected under capitalism is because of the emphasis on consumerism. In our society, we are constantly bombarded with messages encouraging us to buy more and consume more, and many people feel pressure to work harder in order to be able to afford the things they want. This can lead to people sacrificing their sleep in order to earn more money and keep up with the constant demand for consumption.