Why do we study sleep? (2023)

This post is based on a Fireside Chat speech given by Arianna Huffington and Andre Iguodala on April 11, 2016 at Stanford University. You can follow the eventHere.

Before introducing our celebrity guests, as Director of the Center for Sleep Science and Medicine, I was asked to present the topic of sleep and sleep disorders and why we should care about sleep research. That's not difficult for me, because sleeping is my passion.

The first reason to study sleep is simply that sleep is one of the last remaining mysteries of biology. We still don't understand why a typical human sleeps for 25 years. Or why sleep deprivation is still such a powerful force that it can cause people to break down or make terrible misjudgments. It's also a magical moment that allows us to disconnect from the world, from hunger, from worries, etc. "Sleep is death without compromise," says the humorist, and I think that's why not being able to sleep is so distressing when you have problems in your life. As I will discuss at the end of this presentation, I believe these answers are achievable with relatively limited investment thanks to advances in big data and genetics.


(Video) What is a sleep study?

On a practical level, we know that two distinct processes, circadian timing and sleep debt, regulate sleep. Sleep guilt is what we feel as we stay awake longer and later. Day by day people are getting more and more tired to the point that after three nights a human would literally kill just to blink. Our brain records how much sleep we get and makes it imperative to get it. Randy Gartner managed to stay awake for 264 hours (11 days), which is a world record. This is odd, because sleep makes us vulnerable to predators, and in fact, carnivores at the top of the food chain sleep more. Literally nothing is known about what controls sleep debt and sleep needs in humans, or how the brain tracks them. All we know is that sleep needs vary greatly with age and between people, and it makes us feel refreshed while we sleep. But what exactly restores it in the body and brain is unknown. Can you imagine a world where you could pop a pill, fall asleep quickly, sleep just a few hours, and wake up rested? We're a long way from that.

Regardless of our sleep deficit, we feel significantly worse at certain times of the day and night. For example, even if we haven't slept for several days, it's much easier to stay awake in the early evening while we feel very tired in the early morning. This feeling corresponds to the change in our body temperature and is what we experience during jet lag. Unlike sleep debt, we know how circadian rhythms are generated; The problem is that no one could easily apply this complex knowledge to help people. What has been discovered is that nearly all cells in the body have an internal clock that allows them to prepare for the new day, and that clock works by producing factors that cascade to regulate other factors. This process will take exactly 24 hours to complete and reset. We also know that all of these clocks are regulated by a master clock located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN. The SCN is a part of the brain that sits above the optic nerve and connects directly to the eyes to allow light to reset our clock to the correct time each day, which is important as otherwise our time would change each day. It also helps us adjust to jet lag when traveling in different time zones. For all world travelers, I hope you know that the most efficient way to set the clock is to stay outside and enjoy as much daylight as possible.


(Video) Why Sleep Matters

It is also interesting that circadian rhythms not only make us more awake during the day and more sleepy at night; They cleverly work with our sleep debt to optimize the 24-hour cycle. For example, people are mostly awake in the morning because they just fell asleep and don't have a sleep guilt, but as the day progresses and the temperature rises, so does the sleep guilt, and at night people stay awake because the circadian clock wakes us up and the Fighting the sleep debt we've accumulated since morning. The opposite happens at night, we sleep when the sleep debt is very high, and then we sleep longer in the morning because the temperature drops and the circadian clock makes us sleep a few hours longer. Therefore, in the middle of the day or in the middle of the night, we have vulnerabilities that we may nod off or tend to wake up to.

As you can see, many things happen during sleep, and most importantly, we actually have two different types of sleep that we need, slow wave sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. During a typical night, the average sleeper first falls asleep in a sleep phase in which the cortex is resting and generating larger and larger synchronized waves — which is why it's called slow-wave sleep. This sleep stage is associated with disconnected perception, so someone waking the subject during deep sleep will be confused and not thinking much. This is also the sleep stage people are in when they sleep, walk, or have night terrors. After about 1.5 hours something strange happens and the brain goes into a state called paradoxical sleep or REM sleep. This is a strange state because the sleeper is completely paralyzed but his eyes are moving wildly and he is dreaming in such a way that the cerebral cortex is as active as when he is awake. Surprisingly, this state of being was only discovered 70 years ago. In fact, our former director, Dr. William C. Dement witnessed the phenomenon and reported the association of REM with dreams. Dementia is often considered the father of sleep medicine. In REM sleep, the most basic parts of the brain that regulate automatic functions are disconnected. For example, temperature or muscle tone are switched off. In contrast, the cortex becomes over-activated, possibly to reinforce random connections and also to enhance our creativity. Although we have some idea of ​​the SWS function in resting and calorie saving, REM sleep is still a real mystery.

The second reason why we need to study sleep is that about 20% of the population has serious sleep problems and we don't have very good solutions to offer at the moment. The most common problem is sleep apnea, which affects 10% of the population, mostly men, and is associated with being overweight or having a small chin that narrows the airways. I know you may think it doesn't apply to you all that much, but you may be surprised at how we see it in people of both sexes and even in children. In sleep apnea, the negative pressure we create when we breathe causes the airways to collapse. Sleep apnea creates two problems: poor sleep and constant tiredness; and even more worryingly, low oxygen levels during the night increase the risk of stroke, heart attack and even death. Sleep apnea is a difficult diagnosis because, for many, the main treatment, continuous airway pressure therapy - CPAP - is worse than the disease. It's a very simple treatment; A pump gently pushes air into a mask that prevents the airway from collapsing. The problem with CPAP is that half of the patients cannot tolerate it. While we have other effective therapies such as surgery or braces, the problem is that it is impossible to know for sure who could benefit from what and of course there is a great need for precision in this area.


(Video) Why Do We Have To Sleep?

A second common problem that affects more women is insomnia. Insomnia is often viewed as a hopeless condition, which is really wrong. We've made great strides in treating insomnia without drugs. In fact, a subset of insomniacs develop a bad pattern of trying too hard to sleep, staying in bed too late, and worrying about it too much. In such cases, cognitive behavioral therapy and sleep restrictions can be very effective and life-changing. We simply ask them to record how many hours they sleep in about 2 weeks and calculate the average. We then adjust their schedule so that they end up with a slightly lower total amount of sleep to keep sleep consolidated. This breaks the vicious circle and you can learn to sleep soundly again.

In addition to sleep apnea and insomnia, we also see a whole range of more unusual problems, such as restless syndrome, a condition in which a person feels the need to move their legs in the evenings and at night. It is a genetic condition that is also linked to iron deficiency. We also see patients who have the opposite of insomnia, who have difficulty staying awake during the day, and who have very vivid dream experiences as in narcolepsy. Others have strange behaviors while they sleep, such as B. kicking or acting out their dreams, or walking or talking in their sleep. Some sleepwalking patients have jumped out of windows, slept in the wrong bed, etc., which, as you can imagine, can have devastating consequences.

The third reason we need to study sleep is that sleep is involved in everything we do. And yet, as our guests will show, it is dangerously underestimated. More and more people work night shifts, have 2 jobs or, in your case, study hard at the expense of sleep. Cheating at sleep increases your risk for all kinds of problems — obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and even cancer, not to mention marital problems or car or work accidents. Car accidents can be one of the most tragic consequences, and with sleep being so much heavier in younger people, you are all particularly at risk. Falling asleep at the wheel is even deadlier than alcohol-related accidents. When you fall asleep at the wheel, it takes several seconds, and I'm sure you can imagine what happens when a car is going sixty miles an hour on the freeway without even trying to brake. Personally, I'm looking forward to self-driving cars so I can nap on the way home from a party.

Unfortunately, underreporting their sleep is also sexist for executives and executives, and it has a bad impact on everyone. There are countless examples of people bragging about getting only a few hours of sleep. Napoleon, for example, claimed he only needed a few hours of sleep. On the other hand, he clearly committed an error of judgment in entering into the Louisiana purchase agreement with Jefferson; otherwise you, the audience, not me, would have a strange accent.

(Video) Sleep Study: What to Expect | IU Health

My passion now is using genetics and machine learning on large datasets from sleep studies or sleep devices to unravel the mystery of the molecular mechanisms of sleep and the causes of sleep disorders. Given all of this, I couldn't believe how lucky we were when I was first contacted by Arianna and told we could work together to improve sleep for all Americans. Who could have dreamed of a better champion! I don't want to steal the thunder from Arianna and explain how she became interested in sleep and what she is doing to ensure it is optimized. Suffice it to say that she lived and continues to live a passionate life of hard and creative work and has been rewarded with many achievements. She's an incredible role model for all of us and I'm thrilled that since she's French she's calling her book The Sleep Revolution; I understand the power of revolution. Statistically, many of you suffer from sleep problems. The revolution Arianna brings you is that you can start doing something about it today.

Not only are we lucky to have Arianna with us, we also have André Iguodala with us who needs no introduction. As you may know, Andre is a Golden State Warrior and was last year's NBA Finals MVP. Your team is on track to break records this season. He'll share with us how his performance has changed when he takes sleep seriously. André, we're all cheering for you on Wednesday!


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(Video) Sleep is your superpower | Matt Walker


Why do we study about sleep? ›

We know, for example, that sleep is critical for waking cognition—that is, for the ability to think clearly, to be vigilant and alert, and sustain attention. We also know that memories are consolidated during sleep, and that sleep serves a key role in emotional regulation.” Studies conducted by Dr.

Why do we get enough sleep? ›

But if not getting enough sleep is a regular part of your routine, you may be at an increased risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, poor mental health, and even early death. Even one night of short sleep can affect you the next day.

What are 3 reasons why sleep is important? ›

Sleep is a vital, often neglected, component of every person's overall health and well-being. Sleep is important because it enables the body to repair and be fit and ready for another day. Getting adequate rest may also help prevent excess weight gain, heart disease, and increased illness duration.

Why do we need enough sleep simple paragraph? ›

Contrary to our quiet physical state, the brain is very active during sleep, carrying out many important functions. Sleep is essential to every process in the body, affecting our physical and mental functioning the next day, our ability to fight disease and develop immunity, and our metabolism and chronic disease risk.

What is the meaning of enough sleep? ›

Adequate sleep (AS: adequate sleep is defined as 6–8 hours per night regularly) is a critical factor in adolescent health and health-related behaviors.

What happens when we don't get enough sleep? ›

Sleep deficiency is linked to many chronic health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression. Sleep deficiency is also linked to a higher chance of injury in adults, teens, and children.

Does everyone get enough sleep? ›

1 in 3 adults don't get enough sleep.

What are the two main purposes of sleep? ›

Sleep is an essential function. View Source that allows your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up. Healthy sleep also helps the body remain healthy and stave off diseases. Without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly.

What is the most important advantage of sleep? ›

The most obvious advantage of sleep is that it relaxes our tired body. After a good sleep one becomes alert and active again for the day's work.

What is the most important in sleep? ›

The most important sleep stage is Stage 3, Non-REM or, Delta (Slow Wave) Sleep, it takes up 25% of our total sleep cycle, and it's known as the 'deepest' period of sleep. It's in Stage 3 that sleep is at its most restorative, helping our bodies heal themselves and our minds rest.

What are 10 benefits of sleep? ›

Now let's talk about the specific benefits of getting quality sleep on a regular basis.
  • Increased Energy Levels. ...
  • Improved Brain Performance. ...
  • Improved Mental Health. ...
  • Improved Mental Health. ...
  • Decreased Inflammation. ...
  • Weight Loss. ...
  • Strengthened Relationships. ...
  • Strengthened Immune System.

How much sleep is important in life? ›

For adults, getting less than seven hours of sleep a night on a regular basis has been linked with poor health, including weight gain, having a body mass index of 30 or higher, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and depression.

How to get enough sleep? ›

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule. Set aside no more than eight hours for sleep. ...
  2. Pay attention to what you eat and drink. Don't go to bed hungry or stuffed. ...
  3. Create a restful environment. Keep your room cool, dark and quiet. ...
  4. Limit daytime naps. ...
  5. Include physical activity in your daily routine. ...
  6. Manage worries.

Can you live without enough sleep? ›

It isn't clear how long humans can truly survive without sleep. But it is clear that extreme symptoms can begin in as little as 36 hours. This includes a reduced ability to think, poor decision-making, and speech impairment. Pulling an all-nighter once every couple of months likely won't do any long-term damage.

What affects sleep quality? ›

External factors, such as what we eat and drink, the medications we take, and the environment in which we sleep can also greatly affect the quantity and quality of our sleep. In general, all of these factors tend to increase the number of awakenings and limit the depth of sleep.

Do poor people sleep more? ›

The average person sleeps 229,961 hours in their lifetime, equivalent to almost one-third of their life. For those experiencing poverty, this number is estimated to be much smaller. In fact, 33.6% of those below the poverty line reported sleeping less than the recommended seven hours per night.

Are there people who don't sleep? ›

Scientists identified a gene that causes people to naturally sleep less than six and a half hours each night without any apparent ill effects. The findings reveal a mechanism affecting quality sleep and suggest an avenue to investigate for new sleep treatments.

How many Americans don't sleep well? ›

What percentage of the population has trouble sleeping? According to the National Institutes of Health, 7% to 19% of adults reportedly do not get enough sleep, 40% reportedly fall asleep during the day at least once a month, and 50 to 70 million Americans have chronic sleep disorders.

How sleep can change your life? ›

“Sleep affects almost every tissue in our bodies,” says Dr. Michael Twery, a sleep expert at NIH. “It affects growth and stress hormones, our immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure and cardiovascular health.” Research shows that lack of sleep increases the risk for obesity, heart disease and infections.

Did you know facts about sleep? ›

10 Curious Facts About Sleep
  • Some of us dream in black and white. ...
  • We are the only mammals that can delay sleep. ...
  • Sleep is different for men and women. ...
  • Sleep boosts immunity. ...
  • 15% of the population sleepwalk. ...
  • It should take 10 – 15 minutes to fall asleep. ...
  • A new bed can increase the amount of sleep you get.

What age is sleep most important? ›

Children and babies need a lot more sleep than adults. Newborns spend 16-20 hours a day sleeping. By age 2, children are finally spending more time awake than sleeping. Sleep is vital to children and babies because of the rapid brain development and growth that they're experiencing during this age.

How much sleep does a 100 year old need? ›

Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as all adults—7 to 9 hours each night. But, older people tend to go to sleep earlier and get up earlier than they did when they were younger.

Is it normal to need 10 hours of sleep? ›

Sleep needs can vary from person to person, but in general, experts recommend that healthy adults get an average of 7 to 9 hours per night of shuteye. If you regularly need more than 8 or 9 hours of sleep per night to feel rested, it might be a sign of an underlying problem, Polotsky says.

Why do I wake up tired after 8 hours of sleep? ›

Most likely, you're still tired after eight hours of sleep because of these three factors: (1) you don't know your sleep need, (2) you're not taking into account your sleep efficiency, and (3) you carry sleep debt.

Do long sleepers live longer? ›

'Speculative' Results? There was a 65% higher death rate for people who regularly slept less than 5 hours on all nights, compared with people who regularly slept 6 to 7 hours per night. There was a 25% higher death rate for people who averaged 8 hours or more of sleep on all nights.

How many hours sleep by age? ›

How Much Sleep Do I Need?
Age GroupRecommended Hours of Sleep Per Day
Newborn0–3 months14–17 hours (National Sleep Foundation)1 No recommendation (American Academy of Sleep Medicine)2
School Age6–12 years9–12 hours per 24 hours2
Teen13–18 years8–10 hours per 24 hours2
Adult18–60 years7 or more hours per night3
5 more rows
Sep 14, 2022

Why do females need more sleep than males? ›

“Women are also multi-taskers, and they do a lot at once. Because they use more of their actual brain, they may need a little bit more sleep than men. It is still debatable, but some experts say that women need twenty more minutes on average than men usually need.”

Why am I so tired no matter how much I sleep? ›

The two most likely reasons you're always so tired no matter how much sleep you get are you've got high sleep debt or you're not living in sync with your circadian rhythm. You may also feel sleepy if you're ill, pregnant, or you've got a medical condition like anemia or diabetes.

Why do I never wake up feeling rested? ›

The most common cause of sleepiness is not sleeping long enough. Getting enough restful sleep is crucial for maintaining good health. Research over the past decade has shown that healthy sleep is just as important as exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet.

Why is waking up so hard? ›

Sleep inertia, or wake-up grogginess, is the main reason you're unable to fully wake up in the morning or after a nap. It's a completely normal part of your sleep-wake cycle that's intensified by factors like high sleep debt and circadian misalignment (caused by sleeping in, social jetlag, and travel jet lag).


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