Sleep on it: how sleep helps build resilience
Why is sleep so important?Walker runs one of the world’s leading sleep labs at the University of California, Berkeley and, in a recent book, explores the transformative power of sleep to change our lives. Among his findings, Walker summarises what we now know about sleep, including:
- Everyone needs seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Anything less will have a detrimental effect on our health. It’s a myth that some people can maintain their health with less than this.
- Lack of sleep has a cumulative effect on our health, and you can’t undo the damage by grabbing a few extra hours on the weekend. Those who regularly miss sleep are at a much higher risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
- Although many people believe that alcohol helps them sleep, it actually does more harm than good. Alcohol in the evening fragments a person’s sleep and, more critically, it tends to repress REM – or dream – sleep. Dream sleep is one of the key ways that our minds process emotions and solve problems while we’re asleep.
What does sleep mean for building resilience?Two key takeaways from Walker’s research that have a direct impact on resilience are:
- Good sleep is essential for learning – we need sleep before learning new things and then afterwards since our brains continue to process what we’ve learnt for several nights.
- Sleep is essential for emotional regulation – brain scans of sleep-deprived people show an increase of activity in regions of the brain that generate reactivity and impulse, and a decrease in activity in regions that control rational decision making. This is why a sleep-deprived person often swings between emotional extremes.
Your taskAre you a good sleeper? What are the things that get in the way of sleep for you? Do you put off going to bed? Do you try to cram in too much at the end of the day? In the comments, share your tips for getting a good sleep and the things that get in the way of getting enough sleep.
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