Wednesday 28 September 2016

Fewer than five hours of sleep makes brain age 65pc faster

Laura Donnelly Oxford

Published 28/07/2015 | 02:30

The neuroscientist said sleep deprivation could damage the quality of crucial decisions. Picture posed by model
The neuroscientist said sleep deprivation could damage the quality of crucial decisions. Picture posed by model

PEOPLE who boast about getting by on less than five hours sleep a night should be shunned like smokers because of the harm which can be caused by short sleeping, a leading professor has said.

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Prof Russell Foster, a neuroscientist from the University of Oxford, said lack of sleep was damaging health, with too many early risers trying to function with brain skills so damaged they could be drunk.

The comments follow studies which suggest that working night shifts speeds up the ageing process and is linked to increased risks of cancer, heart disease and type-two diabetes.

Prof Foster, director of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute, called for a change in attitudes towards getting an early night.

He said: "There certainly is a culture of, 'Well I only had five hours of sleep last night how fantastic am I?' In fact, we should be looking down on those sort of things - in the same way that we frown upon smoking. I think we should start to frown upon not taking our sleep seriously."

The neuroscientist said sleep deprivation could damage the quality of crucial decisions.

"We see this too much with really senior people," he said. "Lack of sleep damages a whole host of skills - empathy, processing information, ability to handle people, but right at the top of the chain you get overly impulsive, impaired thinking, because of this problem.

"Look at banking, look at the recent decisions about the Greek crisis. "We see major discussions going through the night which have a massive impact, and decisions are being made when skills are very impaired."

Prof Foster said:"At four in the morning, our ability to process information is similar to the amount of alcohol that would make us legally drunk - as bad as if we had a few whiskeys or beers."

He said the evidence about the increased health risks posed by night shifts was compelling.

"The assumption has always been that you adapt to the night shift, that the body clock will map on to the demands of working at night. The really extraordinary findings across a whole range of different studies are that you don't adapt," he said, citing research linking night working to a host of diseases. Last year, French research showed that the brains of workers who had carried out night shifts for about 10 years had aged by an extra six and-a-half years.(© Daily Telegraph London)

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