Watching TED Talks is a popular pastime at CN&CO. We visit TED.com regularly to clear our heads, have a laugh, or get inspired. TED Talks open our minds, spark new ways of thinking, and can lead to some very interesting conversations. Each week we pick a favourite and publish it on a Tuesday, because we like how “TED Talk Tuesday” sounds. This week’s talk was posted by Lethabo-Thabo Royds. Here’s why she chose it:

I love superheroes and I love the idea of having superpowers. So, you can understand why this title caught my attention. I actually caught this TED Talk via podcast and I found it so fascinating that I heard it again by watching the video.

It is both fascinating and scary… very, very scary. So many of us take sleep for granted. We know we need sleep for our brains to store things long-term, we know lack of sleep negatively affects weight loss, we know lack of sleep messes with our concentration, and many other details. But I didn’t truly appreciated just how much my body needs sleep until this talk.

There is a “40% deficit in the ability of the brain to make new memories without sleep,” says Matt Walker, the TED Talk speaker and a sleep scientist. Lack of sleep even affects your reproductive system and your DNA, he says.

“Sleep, unfortunately, is not an optional lifestyle luxury. Sleep is a non-negotiable biological necessity.”

He even uses Daylight Savings Time and how this one-hour change makes a difference in the countries it affects. “In the Spring, when we lose one hour of sleep, we see a subsequent 24% increase in heart attacks that following day. In the Autumn, when we gain an hour of sleep, we see a 21% reduction in heart attacks,” he says. He says you see similar statistics for car crashes, road traffic accidents, and even suicide rates.

But, here’s the kicker: lack of sleep is detrimental to your immune system. Lack of sleep decreases the levels of natural killer cells in your body. These are the cells that kill infections. Walker says: “we are seeing links between short sleep duration and your risk of developing numerous forms of cancer. Currently, that list includes cancer of the bowel, cancer of the prostate, and cancer of the breast.”

“We are seeing links between short sleep duration and your risk of developing numerous forms of cancer. “

In one experiment they restricted the sleep of participants to only 4-hours for one night and the next day they found that participants had a 70% reduction in natural killer cell activity… after ONE NIGHT!

“The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. Short sleep predicts or causes mortality,” warns Walker. I have been warned.

One of the most profound things he says is this: “Sleep, unfortunately, is not an optional lifestyle luxury. Sleep is a non-negotiable biological necessity. It is your life support system and it is Mother Nature’s best effort yet at immortality”. Watch the talk here and make sure you get a good night’s rest tonight: