The latest wave of in-depth studies confirms that which many people already know: the human brain works best when it gets more sleep.
Yes, some people require more sleep than others. But a majority of first world citizens — workers, students, and others — are now trying to operate on less than the optimal amount of rest.
Chalk it up to the harried pace of modern life, a changing economy that forces many people to work more than one job, or the dangerous idea that sleep is “wasted time,” but the facts speak for themselves: sleep deprived people cannot function at peak levels.
A study published in Nature, the International Weekly Journal of Science, underscores the point.
“The practice of going to sleep and waking up at ‘unnatural’ times could be the most prevalent high-risk behavior in modern society,” writes Till Roenneberg, a professor of chronobiology at the Institute of Medical Psychology at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munch, and the principal author of the study.
Roenneberg posits that a full third of people are required to wake up two hours before their circadian clocks, or “natural waking times,” would dictate as optimal.
What’s wrong with getting too little sleep? Let’s turn that question around: Do you want your airline pilot, brain surgeon, train conductor, or babysitter to be working on too few hours of rest?
Your answer is most likely “no,” something that you instinctively recognize as dangerous.
That’s because getting less than five hours of sleep, according to the study, makes people “slower and dumber.” It also, can make people more susceptible to false memories, according to a recent study published in the September issue of Psychological Science and profiled in at length in mainstream media courtesy of The Atlantic. The study found that of the 193 people tested, participants who slept for less than five hours a night were significantly more likely to say they had seen a news video when they in fact never had.
And don’t forget the classroom.
Students who sleep more better remember what they learned the previous day. A 2001 study published in Science (which a 2014 study later confirmed) showed that more sleep leads to higher exam scores as well. Students who slept seven hours the night before an exam that tested them on economics, languages, and math scored an average of 9 percent higher than students who only slept six hours the night before.
Sadly, too many people have to wake up for work (or school or other morning obligations) long before they’re actually ready to rise. We now view sleep as a cherished luxury— instead of the brain-refreshing, body-rejuvenating necessity it is.
In fact, climbing out of bed before the body is ready affects not only morale and energy, but brain function as well.
If you don’t believe it, sleep on it. You’ll see what we mean.