You can’t fall asleep, or maybe you drifted off a couple of hours ago, and now you’re wide awake, feeling lonely and a little desperate.
Lying in the dark, you start to panic: You know your alarm will go off in just a few hours and you’ve barely slept a wink. You need to be alert and ready to tackle the day ahead, and you’re sure that without enough deep, restful sleep, you’ll barely be able to function.
Your worry is well-placed, says Matthew Walker, PhD, professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and director of the Center for Human Sleep Science. He has studied the many ways a lack of sleep affects you. For example, your attention span, mood, and memory suffer. Over time, he suggests, sleeplessness could also lead to unwanted weight gain and negative mood problems. In up to 15% of adults, insomnia causes daytime distress or impairment, with the risk for insomnia being greater in women and older adults.
When it’s happening to you, there’s little consolation in knowing that inadequate sleep, or insomnia, is a problem shared by some 50% of all adults, according to the American Academy of Sleep…