Getting shitty sleep is not a badge of honor, though hustle culture has made us think it is. Just look at how our sleep has corroded over the years: Working adults slept an average of eight hours a night in the 1960s, but today only get 6.2 hours on average, according to MUD\WTR’s sleep advisor, neuroscientist Jeffrey Durmer, MD, Ph.D.
With over a third of adults being chronically underslept, there’s been a corresponding rise in cardiovascular disease, metabolic diseases, diabetes, obesity, mental health issues, and immune and oncologic diseases. It’s enough to cause nightmares … if only society was sleeping.
But sleep doesn’t have to be elusive. Durmer describes it as a behavior that breaks down into three core elements: duration, timing and quality. Master these and good sleep—and better health—will follow.
Below, Durmer breaks down how these three things work and why they matter.
“This is the most-studied parameter of sleep with regards to physical and mental health and development. Getting recommended hours of sleep is important because many studies show that sleeping less than seven hours or more than nine hours (as an adult) has associations with many bad outcomes including all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, neurodevelopmental issues like ADHD, memory function and even Alzheimer’s disease.”
“Sleeping at the same time each day is something your brain and body are programmed to do. Your circadian rhythm is yours, and it tells you when to go to sleep, wake up, eat and workout. Shift work, 24/7 hustle culture and a disregard for a sleep/wake routine (especially on weekends, which is referred to as ‘social jet lag’) is a real modern problem. Studies demonstrate that interrupting your timing leads to a risk of cancer, accidents, diabetes, mental health disorders and obesity.”
“This is the most mysterious aspect of sleep because you most likely need others to help you figure out whether it’s good or bad since you’re asleep. Good sleep quality is generally a measure of your ability to cycle through the natural stages of REM and non-REM sleep without interruption. During these cycles, your brain and body go through restorative processes that reset many basic functions like insulin sensitivity, neurotransmitter repackaging, neural synchronization and waste removal, slowing of the GI system, the cardiovascular system and many more automatic recuperative activities. So interruptions that impact sleep quality can play a major role in your physical, emotional and mental health.”
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