We all know that a good night’s sleep is vital for feeling our best the following day, but few people realize just how important sleep is for maintaining a healthy body and mind over the course of our lifetimes. More and more studies are finding that healthy, regular sleeping habits provide a host of positive health benefits for both the body and the mind. So much so, in fact, that one leading neuroscientist believes that chronic sleep deprivation is one of the “catastrophic” health crises of our time.

That’s according to Matthew Walker, director of the Centre for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley. Walker says that more and more research is beginning to show that healthy sleeping habits are the lynchpin which supports almost every single biological function in the human body:

No aspect of our biology is left unscathed by sleep deprivation. It sinks down into every possible nook and cranny. And yet no one is doing anything about it. Things have to change: in the workplace and our communities, our homes and families.

Walker told The Guardian that only one night of sleeping just four or five hours can decrease the body’s immune response by 70%, including the body’s ability to attack cancer cells which regularly appear in the body. Chronic lack of sleep has been linked to increased rates of several prominent cancers including prostate cancers and breast cancers. In fact, insufficient sleep is so harmful to the body that the World Health Organization classified late-night work shifts as a likely likely carcinogen due to the harmful effects of circadian rhythm disruption. Walker believes that if doctors would prescribe healthy sleep the same way they do sleeping pills, fewer people would suffer from many major health problems.

The next time you think it’s ok to binge just one more episode on Netflix and have an extra coffee in the morning, just remember how harmful too few hours of shut eye can be on your body. That next episode will be waiting there for you tomorrow. Will your immune system?

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician from the mountains of Western North Carolina. Contact him at [email protected]

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