Every year we set our clocks forward an hour to Summertime. Every year, people complain of losing an hour of sleep. And indeed, hospital records show a spike in heart attacks, blood pressure and accidents when the clocks go forward: all typical effects of sleep deprivation. In the autumn, there is a corresponding drop when the clocks go back and we gain an hour of sleep.
We may grumble once a year about having less of a Sunday lie-in, but the real problem is that all the year round we are sleeping so much less than is good for us. As a society, we still overwhelmingly lean to the idea that sleep is a self-indulgent waste of time, a third of our lives lost to idleness and oblivion. Despite the increasing flood of books and articles warning that sleep deprivation is a serious side-effect of our 24/7 globally-awake modern lives, a majority of us routinely override our own body’s signals, and are still so ignorant of how sleep works that some even boast how little sleep they need to ‘get by’.
Too little sleep is known to affect your capacity to learn, and to remember; to make rational decisions, solve problems, cope with emotional and physical shock. It substantially adds to the obvious dangers of driving and operating machinery, and makes you less productive, not more. Too little sleep makes you at once more reckless and less in control than you think you are. It substantially raises your risk of a host of health problems, including obesity, cancer, diabetes and dementia; and undermines your wellbeing in every way.
You can make the clock change less abrupt by preparing for it. For a few days in advance, get up a little earlier, bring forward your mealtimes by fifteen minutes, go to bed a little earlier. In the autumn, reverse the process, delaying your routines a little: so that your inner clock has time to align itself serenely with the time on the outer clocks.
But for a far more radical and beneficial change, make your sleep too precious to so casually clip it short. Make time for the creative, curative processes in yourself that enable you to feel more fully alive during the daylight hours. Love your bed, love the dark, love the secret world of sleep.
Thank you for visiting my blog.
Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep (2017), Penguin
Guy Meadows, The Sleep Book (2014), Orionbooks
Images: thanks to enrico-carcasci-200829-unsplash & jordan-whitt-78672-unsplash