In the past, we’ve highlighted the importance of sleep in our lives as evidence mounts. A healthy amount of the stuff can help with memory, and a study showing that those who toss and turn to the tune of five or fewer hours of sleep per night have a higher incidence of “silent” heart disease suggests its importance in cardiovascular health. But it’s not like we needed science to tell us that getting plenty of sleep was good for us; the sluggish thoughts, rotten moods, and general uselessness we experience on inadequate sleep is our body’s way of telling us to sleep more and sleep better.
Still, we’re suckers for a good scientific study that further clarifies our Primal way of approaching the world, so we need to add just one more pro-sleep study to the pantheon of research we’ve already related (okay, there’ll probably be way more coming in the future, we can’t lie). Dr. Sheldon Cohen of Carnegie Mellon recently helmed a study examining the relationship between sleep and viral immunity, specifically immunity against the common cold virus. For fourteen days, the sleep patterns of 153 men and women were monitored, recorded, and analyzed (they didn’t just monitor how long someone was in bed, but rather actually recorded each patient’s sleep efficiency, or how many hours they actually slept). After fourteen days, drops of rhinovirus (which causes the common cold) were administered to the nasal cavities of the patients. Each person was monitored for the day prior to and five days after the administration of the virus.
People getting less than seven hours of sleep per night were almost 3 times as likely (2.94, to be exact) to develop a cold than those getting the recommended eight hours or more per night. Sleep efficiency was even more telling – those patients with less than 92% efficiency (in other words, for less than 92% of the time in bed, they were actually sleeping) were 5.5 times more likely to catch a cold.
We don’t want to overstate this, though. Just cause you miss a few hours of sleep doesn’t mean you’re sure to catch a cold, nor does it mean you’re going to suffer from heart disease or be unable to remember to pack a lunch. But if inefficient or inadequate sleep is a regular part of your life, you should be aware that you’re compromising your health.
Adequate sleep is, in our opinion, actually one of the toughest aspects of the Primal Blueprint to keep up with. Sure, Grok didn’t have rush-hour commutes to avoid, kids to pick up from soccer practice, or looming deadlines; he merely had to have enough food and shelter to survive for the day, no easy task. He lived a hard-scrabble life, where food was never guaranteed and danger lurked around every corner – but he was still able to find time for rest and relaxation. Meanwhile, our hard-scrabble lives are artificial. Man-made. Most of us have plenty of food, live in homes that can withstand thunderstorms and earthquakes, and have soft beds, but we make our lives more difficult than they need to be. We’ve replaced natural dangers with dangers and stresses of our own creation.
By all means, wake up early to beat traffic, spend plenty of time with your kids, and excel at your job… just don’t forget about yourself. Sneaking in a couple extra hours of sleep per day might be difficult for many of us, but the potential benefits are worth the effort.