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International sleep experts presented the 'Sleep Manifesto' in Barcelona, highlighting the role proper rest plays in human health and healthy aging. They did so at the B·Debate event “Sleep: the fourth pillar of health”, an initiative of Biocat and the “la Caixa” Foundation held on 18 to 19 October at CosmoCaixa. Moreover, they also presented the 'White book on sleep'.

The event was organized in conjunction with the Global Sleep Observatory, IRB Lleida and the AdSalutem Institute. "If we don't get enough sleep, in terms of quality and quantity, our health will pay the price," warned Ferran Barbé, co-leader of the B·Debate and head of Arnau de Vilanova University Hospital and the Lleida Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRBLleida). Barbé has highlighted the need to change the habits of society as a whole, moving towards what has been called the ideal routine: "getting up early, having breakfast at home and leaving the house after the sun has come up, having a light snack midmorning, eating lunch around 1, leaving work around 5, dinner at 8 and everyone in bed by 10."

Experts reminded that the four pillars of human health are a balanced diet, physical activity, emotional wellbeing and sleep. "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. "It is a pillar not only of our health but of our lives." Sleep gives our brain the chance to reset and work properly. Plus, it plays a highly significant role in the endocrine and immune systems. Despite this evidence, sleep is still often overlooked and still needs to be addressed.

Experts say the average adult should sleep between 7 and 8 hours a night. Sleeping too little or too much, and poorly, can shave years off our life and also affect quality of life. That's why people who don't sleep well are more likely to develop cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes and other conditions, even certain types of cancer.

Beyond health, poor sleep also affects cognitive performance. Children who don't get enough sleep don't do as well in school as others, with concentration, behavioral and anxiety issues. In adults, scientists have seen a very clear connection between lack of sleep and workplace performance and accidents. In fact, Gozal highlighted the economic importance of sleep because, as he noted, "studies show that sleeping one extra hour can boost our productivity by 16%."

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