Sleep is an essential part of life. You will feel terrible and not function properly if you do not sleep for a few days, but how much do you need?
Margaret Thatcher, when she was prime minister, said she only slept five hours a night. Many business people and entrepreneurs boast that they get by on about four hours’ sleep a night, and this allows them to work long hours and get lots done. Science is currently questioning the wisdom of this.
What science discovered
Recent research at the Center for Translational Neuromedicine found that whilst you are sleeping, fluids are being pumped through your brain that filter toxic waste products. This filtration system helps protects the body from neurological illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.
Cerebrospinal fluid filters through the brain for six to eight hours. If you don’t sleep for a day or two, then this system is not operational and leaves a build-up of harmful chemicals in your brain, such as beta-amyloid.
If you sleep less than the six to eight hours needed to remove harmful chemicals, then the result will be a loss of cognitive functions, memory lapses and inability to make decisions.
Knowing this, would you trust the decision-making powers of people who sleep less than six hours a night? Did a lack of sleep affect Margaret Thatcher’s abilities? Supporters of hers would say no, but opposition politicians seriously questioned her judgement.
If you do not sleep at least six hours a night, then taking regular 20-minute naps during the day can help. Naps will help flush out more toxins in the brain. Better still, have an afternoon siesta of 60 to 90 minutes. Countries like Spain that traditionally have afternoon siestas validate the benefits of the after-lunch snooze.
Another advantage of getting plenty of sleep is that it helps regulate emotions and contributes to creative thinking. When tired, people find it difficult to come up with creative ideas.
Sleep at work
Google recognizes the benefits of sleep. It provides its employees with sleep pods that recline into the optimal napping position to promote blood circulation and reduce pressure on the lower back.
The next time that your boss catches you napping at work, remind him or her that you are recharging your brain to be able to work more efficiently. The more sleep you get, the better you will be handling the task at hand.