Sleep is a funny thing.

Apparently by the time you get to 90 you will have spent on average 32 years of your life asleep. When you read a statistic like that it makes you wonder whether that time is wasted.

Reading that made me wonder whether Thomas Edison was right when he said:

Sleep is a criminal waste of time and a heritage from our caveman days

Someone else who was equally rude about sleep was former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. She used to say

Sleep is for wimps

And apparently only slept four hours a night. She was in many ways an incredible Prime Minister and was much loved and loathed by different parts of the population. She was voted by an Ipsus Mori Poll as being the most effective Prime Minister of the past 30 years in July 2011. However she probably remained as leader of the country for too long. She was ultimately rather ignominiously booted out from office

The question is had she slept more, would she have been more effective?

One of my favourite bloggers, James Clear wrote a brilliant post about better sleep. In it he refers to a fascinating study about a group of students who slept for 4, 6 and 8 hours a night over a two week period. Not surprisingly perhaps those who slept only 4 hours a night showed a marked deterioration in brain power. Whereas those who slept 8 hours showed none. More interestingly perhaps is that the 6 hour group were much closer to the 4 hour group than the 8 hour group. And the other fact that leapt out at me was that despite getting less sleep, those in the four and six hour groups didn’t feel that they were much worse off. So they were deluding themselves as to how the lack of sleep was affecting them.

I have no idea whether she would have been more effective. But I certainly suspect that the continuous toll of 4 hours sleep a night paid a price and led to the lack of judgement that ended up in her downfall.

As an aside it was announced in 2005 that Thatcher had dementia. This is often linked to lack of sleep.

One more fact about sleep I thought interesting. Apparently if you sleep less than hours a night you are 50% more likely to be obese….

Which struck me as quite odd, until I realised that I used to be obese and I often slept less than 5 hours a night. Supposedly it has to do with Grellin which is an enzyme that makes you feel hungry. Apparently eating breakfast also releases it!

Now I am no longer obese I often find that I sleep much better and more often than not I get more than 5 hours sleep. I am not obese any more either. So I am one of the 50%! Although using me as a survey sample is not a great idea.

I am trying to track my sleep now. I don’t think I am getting enough. Last night, according to my fitbit I slept for 6 hours and 47 minutes. It isn’t that bad and recently I had been sleeping for less than that. But I really want to sleep for 8 hours a night. I want to perform at my maximum potential.

Despite Thatcher and Edison, the science is all on the side of getting enough sleep, not getting less of it.

And as James Clear points out peak athletes get more sleep than most of us. And for them being the best is critical, so sleep is definitely important.

How much sleep are you getting? Do you think you get enough? Let me know in the comments.

And if you want more on sleep, I recommend the Ted Talk below by Russell Foster. In it he shares some interesting findings about the correlation between poor mental health and not enough sleep.

I was pleased to see in the Ted Talk that the idea of early to bed, early to rise makes you happy early and wise was not true. In his view it just made you unbearably smug!

I think I agree. But I definitely want more sleep!

Time Spent Writing: 30 minutes
Time from starting to finishing: 1 hour
Editing: 10 minutes
Happy with Result 5