TEDx 2015: Why don't you sleep more?
- Aston Webb Building
Many people see sleep as an unwelcome necessity, something that should be minimized because it gets in the way of life, a luxury that is a sign of laziness. Despite this, even those who would prefer not to sleep at all cannot function on less than a few hours sleep a night – but why is that? What purpose does sleep serve that is so important that all aspects of our waking lives are affected by it?
Lack of sleep has been suggested as a contributing factor to weight gain and the development of diabetes, while your immune system also needs sleep to function properly. Your brain is particularly sensitive to how much sleep you've had, although only in the past few years have the methods been developed which can examine why and how sleep affects the brain, and how that relates to waking behaviour. What is clear is that performance on even the simplest task is degraded, while complex tasks such as driving are affected by lack of sleep as much as by alcohol. Academic performance has been shown to be correlated with amount of sleep, with people who get more sleep performing better – are exams a test of intelligence or sleep habits? Given all of this, why don’t you sleep more?
Dr Andrew Bagshaw is a Reader in Imaging Neuroscience in the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham, and Director of the Birmingham University Imaging Centre. After a PhD in Nuclear Physics he gradually migrated to the more fertile pastures of brain science. His current focus is on developing and applying neuroimaging methods to understand how sleep and epilepsy affect the brain.