How important is sleep to you? Is it something you prioritize? Or, do you think you can get by with the bare minimum? The truth is, the less we sleep, the less healthy we are. And one sleep expert is on a mission to get people to sleep more.

Sleep researcher and neuroscientist, Matthew Walker, PhD, is the author of a new book, Why We Sleep. And while the title is short and sweet, Walker delivers a powerful message in it: “The shorter you sleep, the shorter your life.”

But why does Walker make such a bold claim? According to his research, not enough sleep puts your body at risk for three serious health concerns.

Not enough sleep weakens the immune system

Only getting four to five hours of sleep in just one night can lead to a 70 percent decrease in your body’s “natural killer” cells. This makes it harder for the body’s immune system to ward off illness. That goes for everything from the common cold to cancer.

If insufficient sleep is a chronic problem, you can set yourself up for pre-diabetes, and increase risks for diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and obesity.

Even losing one hour of sleep can be fatal

Daylight Saving Time sees a marked increase in health problems, according to Walker. When people lose an hour of sleep, their reaction times slow down, car accidents increase, and the number of heart attacks cases rises, too.

Not enough sleep increases risk of cancer

A lack of sleep interferes with the body’s melatonin production, which can also lead to greater cancer risk. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has gone so far as to say that night shifts are a “probable carcinogen.”

So, if you think sleep isn’t important, think again. Without enough sleep, the body’s immune system is weaker, and we put ourselves at greater risk for serious health conditions, including heart attacks, diabetes and cancer.

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