Why getting enough sleep matters
Last year, an opinion-editorial that I wrote on the perils of short sleep received an unexpected flood of attention. Some wrote tongue-in-cheek commentaries on local sleep patterns. A few concerned parents made appeals on forum pages to have morning-session secondary schools start later. Others thanked me for helping them counsel their children. Is this acknowledgement that the effects of sleep on health are being taken more seriously? Perhaps not.
Independent surveys have shown that, on average, East Asian young adults sleep one to two hours less a night than their European and Australian counterparts.
In the past 12 months, more evidence regarding the growing menace of short sleep has emerged. Market research has identified midnight to 1am as ‘prime time’ for mobile usage in Malaysia. Yet, unpublished data from student surveys indicate that our elite students sleep less than five to six hours a night. Students in one school averaged less than five hours.
Developing brains need sleep. Memory consolidation — the process where what we learn is made more resistant to forgetting and interference — benefits from sleep as memories formed during the day get reactivated in deep sleep.
Data gathered from more than 120,000 people worldwide showed that adults who had the best performance in an Internet-based, standardised test set were those who reported sleeping seven hours at night.
A new finding last year found that when we sleep, channels for waste and neurotoxic substances open up by as much as 60 per cent more. Indeed, in other research, removal of beta-amyloid, a substance implicated in Alzheimer’s disease, was found to be substantially higher during sleep.