A fascinating, perhaps life-changing, article in the August 2018 issue of National Geographic magazine presents an in-depth account of each sleep stage and its significance. The article makes the case for prioritizing sleep in your daily life, pointing out that sleep can have a profound effect on your productivity and your ability to cope with trauma and ward off disease. Ultimately, sleep affects the overall quality and longevity of your life. Take time to read “While We Sleep, Our Mind Goes on an Amazing Journey.” It’s mind-blowing!
The paradox? Just as humans are gaining a deeper understanding about sleep and its critical role in repairing and replenishing our bodies for both mental and physical health, we live in a time when most of us suffer from sleep deprivation.
“A full night’s sleep now feels as rare and old-fashioned as a handwritten letter,” notes writer Michael Finkel. “Before the industrial revolution, which brought us alarm clocks and fixed work schedules, we could often counteract insomnia simply by sleeping in. No longer.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 80 million U.S. adults are chronically sleep-deprived, routinely getting less than the recommended minimum of seven hours a night.
In “While We Sleep, Our Mind Goes on an Amazing Journey,” Finkle says that we now sleep about two hours less per night than we did a century ago, thanks to the proliferation of electric lights, televisions, computers and smartphones. While our sleep is innately designed to be interruptible, evolution hasn’t prepared us for all the modern-day factors that disturb it, such as anxiety before an exam, worries about finances and neighborhood car alarms.
Sleep deprivation costs the U.S. $411 billion a year in reduced productivity, work absences, industrial and road accidents, health care expenses and medical errors, according to a 2017 Rand study.
The National Geographic article leaves little doubt that this once-mysterious third of our lives is as essential to our brain as food is to our body, yet for many of us the rest is yet to come. Perhaps it’s time we stop subordinating sleep to higher priorities and focus on all the ways we can improve it—from going to bed earlier to making sure our mattress is delivering the best possible sleep. Our lives literally do depend on it.