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The Myth of Sleep as Wasted Time


Did you know that we spend about ⅓ of our lives sleeping? If your lifespan is 99 years and you’re getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep everyday then you’re sleeping for 33 years in your entire life. Shocking, right? This was found in a 2011 study titled, ‘We spend about one-third of our life either sleeping or attempting to do so.’ It might feel like we’re wasting a lot of time in our lives. But, in reality, that’s what we need for our own good.

You might have heard phrases like “Sleeping is for sissies” or “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” It’s because a good number of people still think that sleep is a waste of time. At least, a lot of Americans do.

How do we know? Because we explored studies that showed what people think of sleep and why we need a good night’s slumber. And we uncovered some cool facts about what people think of sleep and why it is important.

Alora Present’s “The Myth of Sleep as Wasted time”, a Report

In this report, The Myth of Sleep as a Wasted Time, we have analysed studies to understand what false beliefs Americans have regarding sleep and how sleep affects almost every vital function of our body.

In this thought-provoking document, we have explored the misconceptions surrounding the role of sleep in our lives, debunking the idea that it is merely a time lost. The report delves into the scientific understanding of sleep's significance, emphasising its crucial role in physical and mental well-being.

And the results might surprise you. For example, did you know that poor sleep increases the chances of heart diseases by 29%? We know lack of sleep affects our mental health. But it equally affects your heart and brain.

What do Americans feel about sleeping?

Americans hold varied perspectives on sleep. While some recognize the importance of a good night's rest for overall well-being and productivity, there is also a prevalent cultural tendency to prioritise work and productivity over sufficient sleep.

While a major part of the American population thinks that sleep is important and is a necessity, there’s still a significant number of people who think negatively about sleep. We found this in a 2017 survey conducted by the British Council of Sleep.

  • About 3% feel that sleep is a necessary evil.
  • 2% feel like sleep is a waste of time and they’re missing out on things.
  • When these people were told that they spend about ⅓ of their lives sleeping:

  • 15% of them thought sleep is a waste of time and they have wasted their lives.
  • About 7% wished that they needed less sleep and had even more time.
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    Here’s why sleep is not a waste of time

    Ample research has been done to study the relation between sleep and other parts of our body to understand how sleep affects both our mental and physical health. We might be aware that good sleep is important for mental health issues like anxiety and depression. But it’s also important for our organs to function normally.

    Do you agree?

    Yes. What choice do I have?

    No. Sleep is a waste of time.

    Sleep helps us to function and carry out daily activities throughout the day and it should never be taken lightly. As Barry Krakow, MD, medical director of Maimonides Sleep Arts and Sciences says ,

    “You’re putting energy in the bank when you go to sleep. On a cellular level, the body is literally repairing and restoring itself. Without it, you can’t do what you want -- physically or mentally.”

    Here’s what studies have found about how sleep affects different organs as well as our mind.

    #1 Sleep and memory or brain function

    Brain is one of the vital organs and both sleep quality and quantity have several effects on it. It can be both positive and negative. Not just that, how your memory works also depends on sleep. Here are a few facts about how sleep and brain function are related.

  • Our brain stays remarkably active when we sleep and it clears out toxins that build up in the brain when we’re awake. Sleep serves as a housekeeping role by dusting away dirt to keep your brain squeaky clean!
  • Sleep has a positive effect on memory retention. The chances of forgetting stuff is reduced to about 11% after a good night’s sleep.
  • One of the oldest studies, Sleep and Memory(1984) also found that sleep has a positive effect on memory. It means sleep makes our memories even more robust!
  • Older people have a hard time rememberingthings the next day because of a reduction in sleep quality and quantity.

    Can you afford to ignore sleep for short-term goals?

    Doesn’t seem like a good idea

    I will risk

    Dr. Matthew Walker, a sleep scientist at the University of California, Berkeley says,

    “We’ve learned that sleep before learning helps prepare your brain for initial formation of memories. And then, sleep after learning is essential to help save and cement that new information into the architecture of the brain, meaning that you’re less likely to forget it.”


    #2 Sleep and the heart

    Yes, sleep does affect how your heart functions in the long run. And having consistent good night’s sleep can prove to be great for your heart! Here’s why.

  • About 33% of the patients suffering from heart failure have reported insomnia, which is a common sleeping disorder. 
  • People with insomnia or poor sleep have 29% more chance of contracting a heart disease, also called Cardiovascular Disease (CVD).
  • People sleeping less than 5 hours per night consistently are at a high risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Sleep helps to lower your blood pressure. So, poor sleep actually keeps your blood pressure high for longer periods of time.
  • Also, about 1 in 3 American adults suffer from high blood pressure.
  • Do you remember the stats you just read about the number of patients suffering from heart failure having insomnia?

    Oh, yes! That’s scary.

    No! I am going to look up again.


    #3 Sleep and mental health

    Sleep is not just a nightly recharge for your body. It also affects your mental health. Here’s how sleep affects you mentally.

  • In this study, Improving sleep quality leads to better mental health: A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials (2021), improvements in sleep quality have shown great improvements in mental health.
  • In the same study it was also found that poor sleep can lead to mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
  • Individuals who don't have depression but experience sleeping problems like insomnia are twice as likely to develop depression compared to those who don't have any sleep difficulties.
  • "There's a big relationship between psychiatric and psychological problems and sleep. So people who are depressed or have anxiety often have trouble with sleep as part of those disorders,"- Dr. Lawrence Epstein, Medical Director of Sleep Health Centers and an instructor at Harvard Medical School.


    #4 Sleep and weight gain risk

    That’s right. You might get fat if you don’t get enough and quality sleep consistently for a long time. Sleep plays a crucial role in weight management. Here’s what studies found out about sleep and risk of weight gain.

  • This 2012 study, Short Sleep Duration and Weight Gain: A Systematic Review, found that there is a positive association between short sleep duration and future weight gain.
  • Poor sleep in adolescents can alleviate anxiety and anxiety can be controlled by having a proper good night’s sleep.
  • Not getting enough sleep for a long time can increase the chances of gaining weight in the future. Meaning you might get obese if you don’t get sufficient sleep every day.
  • Not just quantity but poor sleep quality is also highly linked to gaining excess weight in the future.
  • Are you wondering why?

    Yes, I am.

    Not really.

    Why does sleeping less than required cause you to become fat?

    It’s because shorter sleep duration can cause you to eat more. Thus, leading to an increase in weight in the future. Insufficient sleep causes a reaction in the brain that drives people to overeat. Scary right? Always get your required sleep!

    “When you have sleep deprivation and are running on low energy, you automatically go for a bag of potato chips or other comfort foods.” - Susan Zafarlotfi, PhD, clinical director of the Institute for Sleep and Wake Disorders at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.


    #5 Sleep and mood

    Now this is quite an obvious one. One night of disrupted sleep makes us feel cranky and groggy the next day. But it is a serious problem as it might also affect other parts of your life, how you function the entire day. Here’s what researchers say.

  • If you’re getting interrupted sleep, then it can harm your mood. You wake up in a stale mood.
  • Adults who are sleep-deprived are more likely to feel less energised, which affects their mood negatively.
  • Chronic sleep disruptions or getting disrupted sleep for a long period can cause you to feel grumpy.
  • Sleep quality and mood are inversely related to each other. Meaning poor sleep affects mood and mood can affect sleep as well.
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    Has workplace culture contributed to this myth of sleep as wasted time?

    In today's fast-paced and competitive work culture, there is often an expectation that individuals should dedicate extensive hours to their professional commitments. Sometimes at the expense of adequate sleep. The relentless demands of the workplace, coupled with the prevalence of technology that enables constant connectivity, can create a mindset that associates reduced sleep with increased productivity. In a 2011 study, it was found that high work demands have negatively affected nurse’s sleep.

    This might be a probable reason why some people think that sleep is a wasted time. Because working more hours means more money.

    So, how do you get good sleep?

    There are ample ways you can get a good night’s sleep. Sleeping on time, having a bedtime routine, saying no to technology during bedtime and playing sleep sounds are some of the ways which can help your brain to shut down at the right time and make you fall asleep faster. Sleep sounds like rain sounds have helped people across the world to get into a dreamless slumber. Meaning they were able to get a solid night’s sleep.

    If following a bedtime routine or shutting down your computer at 8pm is difficult for you then using sleep sounds to fall asleep faster is one of the simplest ways to get a good night’s sleep. Check out Alora’s Thunder Rain sound to calm your mind and fall asleep faster!



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