1. The extreme importance of sleep for humans

“If sleep didn’t play such a key role, it would be the biggest mistake in our evolution,” said David Gozal, chairman of Child Health at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, at the B·Debate session. “Why haven’t we lost the need to sleep? Because sleep is essential to take advantage of life. It consolidates memories and emotions, regenerates our cells. If we don’t treat it as an essential element, we pay the price.”

And this price can come in different forms. A lack of sleep (or, sometimes, excess) increases the risk of some diseases, but it also affects productivity, slows development in children and young people, increases the risk of accidents and decreases, in general, the quality of life of those who suffer from this problem or don’t get the right care.

“I’m a doctor, but we didn’t spend one minute of medical school discussing the importance of sleep and the consequences of a lack of quality sleep,” confessed Ferran Barbé, head of Arnau de Vilanova University Hospital and the Lleida Biomedical Research Institute (IRBLleida). “We have to make sleep part of our health standards, as we have exercise and healthy diet,” he added. However, that is no simple task. “Changing habits on a social level is the hardest thing to do in public health. If it were easy, no one would be obese or smoke cigarettes.”

“Technical and industrial evolution is much faster than genetic evolution, and this leads to a conflict between what we want to do and what our bodies allow us to do,” explained Gozal. “But when top executives and influencers say they only need four hours of sleep, they’re making a huge mistake. That such successful people can say something so ridiculous implies widespread ignorance regarding sleep.”