Sleep deprivation is just as bad for you as drinking and smoking

If you’re one of those who likes to boast about getting through the day on only a few hours of sleep you might want to change your tune.

According to Professor Russell Foster, a University of Oxford neuroscientist, a lack of sleep causes just as much harm as smoking and drinking. He’s now calling for a change in attitudes towards going to bed early in order to get sufficient shut-eye, reports The Telegraph.

“There certainly is a culture of, well I only had five hours of sleep last night how fantastic am I?” said Professor Foster, who is director of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute. “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.”

Professor Foster claims that less than five hours of sleep leaves brain skills so damaged the person might as well be drunk. He echoes suggestions from studies that too little sleep speeds up the ageing process and is linked to a higher risk of cancer, heart disease and type two diabetes.

More: 10 Mum-approved tips to get sleep with a new baby at home

“At four o clock 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 whiskies or beers,” warned Professor Foster.

A large 2010 sleep study from the University of Warwick and Federico II University Medical School in Naples analysed 16 previous studies, involving a total of 1.3 million participants. One of the findings was that those who slept for less than six hours each night were 12 percent more likely to die before the age of 65 than those who slept for six to eight hours per night.

Yes, that’s right: six to eight hours. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the more sleep you get, the healthier you will be. Unfortunately too much sleep has also been linked to serious health problems. After monitoring the sleep habits of almost 10,000 people aged 42 to 81 over 10 years, University of Cambridge researchers said that regularly sleeping more than eight hours a night doubles the risk of having a stroke, compared to average sleepers.

Worried you’re not getting the right amount of sleep? Check out our 21 tips to get better sleep.

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