Keep calm and sleep Sleep, glorious sleep. It’s what keeps us going day-to-day, yet it’s often the thing that gets sacrificed first when we’re busy trying to keep up with our 24/7 lifestyles. The amount of sleep people get has been declining over the years with the average Briton now only getting six-and-a-half hours a night according to the Sleep Council, down from eight hours ten years ago – a huge drop. This just isn’t sustainable. Sleep isn’t something you can choose to cut out or cut down on like chocolate or watching box sets. We have to sleep to survive. While you’re snoozing your body is going through processes essential for maintaining life. Yes, it really is that big a deal. Your body heals itself, maintains your immune system and files away all the info you’ve gathered during the day. Without sleep you’ll be exhausted physically and mentally.

A recent study looked at the effects of increasing average sleep by just one hour, shedding more light on its benefits. They asked seven volunteers, who normally sleep anywhere between six and nine hours, to be studied at the University of Surrey’s Sleep Research Centre. They were split into two groups. One group was asked to sleep for six-and-a-half hours a night and the other seven-and-a-half hours. After a week the researchers took blood tests and the volunteers were asked to switch sleep patterns.

Unsurprisingly, computer tests revealed that most of the subjects struggled with mental agility tasks when they had less sleep, but that wasn’t the most interesting thing. The blood tests showed that around 500 genes were negatively affected by getting less shut-eye – the genes were associated with diabetes and cancer-development. What was more damning was that the reverse happened when volunteers got an extra hour of sleep – the genes were fit and healthy doing what they were meant to do. So sleep not only affects how you feel physically and mentally, but it also affects your genes. Scary, right?

The message is clear: don’t skip out on sleep. If you’re getting less than seven hours a night and can alter your sleep habits, even just a bit, it could make you healthier.

Unfortunately getting that elusive extra hour isn’t always as simple as it sounds. Not being able to drop off can be frightening, frustrating and completely exhausting so if you want more sleep, but don’t know how to go about it check out This Book Will Make you Sleep for tips, strategies and advice so you can gain more of the benefits from a few extra Zzzs.

You can find more info on the study here.

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