Nurses News

Why We Sleep

I got a chance to hear Dr. Matthew Walker’s podcast on sleep.  He is a researcher and professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.  He recently wrote a book entitled Why We

Sleep.   He asks, what is the advantage of sleep?  Sleep would appear to be the most foolish of biological phenomena.  When we are asleep, we can’t gather food, can’t socialize, can’t find a mate, or take care of your offspring.  Sleep leaves you vulnerable.  So why would we do it? 

As care providers, we talk frequently about diet and exercise influencing our health.  He claims that sleep should be part of the holy trinity.  He feels doctors should be “prescribing” sleep to patients. He clarifies though that does not mean prescribing more  sleeping pills.  He said that we are the only species that purposefully goes without sleep.  He said routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system and more than doubling your risk of cancer.  Insufficient sleep is a key lifestyle factor determining whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s disease.  “Short sleeping” also may lead you to cardiovascular disease and all major psychiatric conditions including depression, anxiety and suicidality.  He discusses many more health-related issues that arise due to lack of sleep.    He also mentioned that one person dies in a traffic accident every hour in the United States due to fatigue-related error.  Vehicular accidents caused by drowsy driving exceed those caused by alcohol and drugs combined.

Sleep then is a major player.  Every 24hrs. we can choose to get adequate sleep.  He feels that with all the new research out about sleep, we are not asking what sleep is good for.  He said instead, we are now forced to wonder whether there are any biological functions that do not directly benefit from a good night’s sleep.  So far, the results of thousands of studies insist that no, there aren’t.


Sleep well….


Nurse Yoly