Wake Up to the Power of Sleep

An excerpt from the book 'Night School' by Richard Wiseman

For centuries, most people adopted a ‘nothing to see, move on’ reproach to the night.  They assumed that your sleeping mind is dormant, and that your time in bed has no real impact on your life.  More recently, the scientific study of sleep and dreaming revealed that nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, each night you embark on an extraordinary journey that influences now you think, feel, and behave when you are awake.  After years of tireless research, sleep scientists managed to map every stage of this fascinating journey, including which parts of your brain jump into action when you fall asleep, how to banish nightmares, and what your dreams really say about your psyche.

The work ha, however, also uncovered the dark side of the night.  Increased workloads, twenty-four-hour media, and permanent Internet access has combined to create a world that now never sleeps.  The statistics are staggering, with surveys revealing that a third of both British and American adults do not get the sleep that they need, and that the vast majority of children arrive at school overtired.  In 2010 British doctors issued more than fifteen million prescriptions for sleeping pills, and around one in ten adults now regularly take some form of sleep-related medication.

This epidemic of sleep deprivation is having a catastrophic impact on our lives.  Around a quarter of drivers admit to falling asleep at the wheel, and fatigue is responsible for thousands of fatal road accidents each year.  Poor sleeping habits also reduce productivity, prevent learning, disrupt relationships, cramp creative thinking, and sap self-control.  As we will discover later in this book, some of the latest research suggests that poor sleep in adults is also associated with depression and obesity, and may cause children to exhibit many of the symptoms associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  Worst of all, even a small lack of sleep can have a detrimental effect on health, and is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and an early death.

pp 5-6