Sleep is our medicine. Quite literally. Every night when we close our eyes and drift into a parallel world of dreams and restful bliss, our body is busy restoring itself and preparing for the day ahead. Yet somehow in our craze for work and socialising, we’ve lost touch with our inherent and deeply important need to get enough sleep every single night. The problem has gotten so bad, that in Britain ministers are now working on a guideline to advise adults on how much sleep they should be getting, as according to a leaked report by The Times, three in four adults don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis.
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of educating people regarding the impacts of sleep disruption is raising awareness to the implications this has on our health. Sure, we all know that sleeping just a few hours makes us tired the next day, causing us to crave fatty foods, making us feel more emotional and a little more sensitive than usual. But how many of us are aware of the impacts sleep disruption has on our health on a more serious level?
Consistent sleep disruption has now been linked to obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, strokes, heart disease and mental health issues. So it only makes sense that ministers in the U.K. are now taking the issue as a public health concern and working on a draft to help set strict and clear guidelines on sleep for the public.
As reported by the BBC, “One idea being considered is for the health service to introduce 'protected sleep time' for patients, when they are not disturbed unless there is a good clinical reason.” The draft of the guidance being set out by the government reads that, “as a first step the government will review the evidence on sleep and health. This is with a view to informing the case for clear national guidance on the daily recommended hours of sleep for individuals in different age brackets and to raise awareness of the key 'sleep hygiene' factors that can support healthy sleeping."
While it does indeed feel as though it has taken a severe toll on our society before the dangerous effects of sleep disruption became a public health concern in the eyes of the government and policy leaders, this draft stands as an important step forward in how we see sleep as a society – and how important it is to us. Educating each and every one of us on the importance of sleep not just for our mental wellbeing but for our health is key here, regardless of the outlines in policy the government may choose to implement.
For all of us to receive 7 hours of sleep, minimum, should become a national priority. And finding a way to communicate and implement this is crucial here. It will help reduce health issues, it will boost our productivity; it will flourish our society and help us maintain our mental and physical wellbeing.