Sleep and circadian rhythms from mechanisms to function

05 December 2018 - 06 December 2018

Barbican Centre,
Silk St,
London EC2Y 8DS, United Kingdom

Sleep is something we all do; in fact it is vital for survival. Research has shown that people who sleep less than six hours a night have a 13% increased risk of death, compared to those who sleep between seven to nine hours1. Margaret Thatcher and Thomas Edison were also famous short sleepers. Ironically it is one of Edison’s inventions, the light bulb that has contributed much towards the sleep deprivation and circadian disruption that many of us feel. He is reported to have slept only 3-4 hours at night, regarding sleep as a waste of time. So why, and how do we sleep? What are the neural mechanisms that regulate sleep and circadian rhythms, and what happens when they go wrong? These questions are fundamental to our health.

Good sleep is associated with enhanced learning, specifically in adolescents2 and disturbed sleep can lead to a loss of productivity and personal suffering. It is estimated that 200,000 working days are lost each year in the UK due to sleep deprivation. If individuals who sleep less than six hours a night started sleeping six to seven hours this could add $29.9 billion to the UK economy. However, lifestyle factors such as excessive electronic media use and our 24/7 society make it increasingly difficult to prioritize sleep, which in turn enhances psychosocial stress, alcohol consumption, smoking, obesity and lack of exercise among others. As a nation understanding the personal and economic benefits of sleep and increasing awareness of these is vital.

This meeting will be part of the Physiological Society’s Year of Sleep and Chronobiology. Sleep is a unique field bringing together many specialities; this meeting will also focus on encouraging early career scientists from all disciplines to come together and in solving the many questions that remain in sleep science.

1 Why sleep matters-the economic costs of insufficient sleep. Hafner et al. RAND corp 2016

2 Waking up to the Health Benefits of Sleep. RSPH 2106