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The "Swiss Army Knife" Of Health: A Good Night's Sleep

Think you can get away with fewer than eight hours of sleep per night? Neuroscientist Matthew Walker says — think again.
Sophie Blackall
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Getty Images/Ikon Images
Think you can get away with fewer than eight hours of sleep per night? Neuroscientist Matthew Walker says — think again.

What does the song "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones have in common with the periodic table of elements? Both are the product of dreams.

Creative reawakening is just one of many boons provided by a full nights rest, argues neuroscientist Matthew Walker.

"Sleep is the Swiss army knife of health. When sleep is deficient, there is sickness and disease. And when sleep is abundant, there is vitality and health."

On this week's episode of Hidden Brain, the mind and body benefits of eight full hours of sleep — and yes, Matthew Walker says that's how many hours of rest you should be getting.

"If we didn't need eight hours of sleep and could survive on six, Mother Nature would have done away with 25 percent of our sleep time millions of years ago. Because when you think about it, sleep is an idiotic thing to do. If sleep does not provide a remarkable set of benefits, then it's the biggest mistake the evolutionary process has ever made."

Hidden Brain is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Maggie Penman, Jennifer Schmidt, Rhaina Cohen, Parth Shah, and Renee Klahr. Our supervising producer is Tara Boyle. You can also follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain, and listen for Hidden Brain stories each week on your local public radio station.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Parth Shah is a producer and reporter in the Programming department at NPR. He came to NPR in 2016 as a Kroc Fellow.
Shankar Vedantam is the host and creator of Hidden Brain. The Hidden Brain podcast receives more than three million downloads per week. The Hidden Brain radio show is distributed by NPR and featured on nearly 400 public radio stations around the United States.
Tara Boyle is the supervising producer of NPR's Hidden Brain. In this role, Boyle oversees the production of both the Hidden Brain radio show and podcast, providing editorial guidance and support to host Shankar Vedantam and the shows' producers. Boyle also coordinates Shankar's Hidden Brain segments on Morning Edition and other NPR shows, and oversees collaborations with partners both internal and external to NPR. Previously, Boyle spent a decade at WAMU, the NPR station in Washington, D.C. She has reported for The Boston Globe, and began her career in public radio at WBUR in Boston.