We frequently consider sleep as a waste of time. We are too busy. Gosh, by the age of 90, on average we will have slept 32 years! Our minds automatically question what else we could have done with that time. So what does the latest research tell us about why we sleep? 

Enjoy the honey-heavy dew of slumber

The above quote is by Shakespeare, from Julius Caesar. It embraces the sweetness of sleep – which nowadays, we rarely seem to do. 

In the 1950s, eight hours sleep a night was the average. In 2013, six and a half hours sleep was the average – with many people getting only five hours. So what is this sleep deprivation doing to us? 

Circadian neuroscientist Russell Foster informs us in this TEDtalk, below.  

Sleep disruption

The latter part of the talk refers to the most recent findings of the connection between mental health and sleep disruption – especially depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. 

For example, sleep disruption seems to precede mental illness. Prior to any other observable symptoms, those at risk of bipolar disorder already have sleep abnormalities. And sleep disruption is seen to make mental health worse, yet sleep support can improve it. 

Scientists are now looking as sleep disruption as an early warning symptom for mental health issues. In vulnerable individuals, sleep might indeed be an opportunity for early intervention. 

Take a look at the talk. And let’s start taking sleep seriously again. Good sleep is associated with good health. 

Russell Foster – Why do we sleep 

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