Some will say that it is the exercise of power that requires this. Others worry about it. Since the arrival at Matignon of Gabriel Attal, a more personal point has prompted reactions on social networks. The new Prime Minister would sleep little: “No more than four hours of sleep per night”, we wrote last January 14. “He can go through several nights without sleep, even if it means sleeping several hours in a row on weekends,” added Le Figaro on January 11.
According to one study carried out by Public Health France in 2017 and published in 2019, “more than a third of French people therefore sleep less than 6 hours” per night. Even though “current recommendations recommend 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night,” noted the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) in October 2022. Concretely, sleep “represents the most accomplished form of rest” and “would allow the body to recover, whether on a physical or mental level”, continues Inserm. In short: sleeping well allows you to be in good shape.
Essential for memory
More precisely, the vital functions of our body are “regenerated” during sleep. “This is mainly used for the proper functioning of the brain,” explains Virginie Sterpenich, neuroscience researcher at the University of Geneva and sleep specialist, to Le Parisien. And in particular to “consolidate one’s memory”. “Sleeping well allows you to be more vigilant, fitter, more alert and to make good decisions,” continues this expert.
According to her, “the necessary duration of sleep is dictated genetically” and therefore depends on each person. “We think that short sleepers are above all people who resist sleep deprivation well, who manage to hold on even if they are tired,” assures Virginie Sterpenich, according to whom this remains “not ideal” .
But what can happen to these “little sleepers”? “We know from numerous epidemiological studies that sleeping less than 6 hours is associated with a higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiac pathologies and accidents,” writes Public health France. A conclusion confirmed by Inserm, according to which, “poor quality/quantity of sleep increases the risk of irritability, depressive symptoms, but also weight gain, hypertension or infection”.
More easily sick, less lucid…
Another possible consequence: a reduction in the effectiveness of the immune system and therefore an increase in the risk of falling ill. “Having enough hours of quality sleep allows for a well-balanced immune defense,” also indicates the Sleep Foundation. According to the latter, sleeping less than six or seven hours per night “increases the risk of catching a cold or flu”.
And what about decision-making, a task inherent to the role of Prime Minister? “If we sleep little, we are less vigilant, it is more difficult to manage our emotions and make good decisions,” replies Virginie Sterpenich. Being used to it allows you to “function better”, but does not compensate for everything.
The recognized National Institutes of Health (NIH) American for its part carried out a study in particular on the effects of lack of sleep on “thinking and risk-taking” in May 2020. This indicates that “an insufficient quantity of sleep has a different impact on the performance of participants based on their usual behavior” and that “under the effect of sleep loss, people who are usually more thoughtful and cautious become more impulsive and inclined to take risks”. Clearly, an alteration of behavior is possible but not systematic, depending on each person’s habits.
Is catching up on the weekend enough?
As indicated by Le Figaro, Gabriel Attal makes up for the hours of sleep he missed during the week during the weekend. A good idea ? Yes for fewer hours of sleep, no to maintain a good rhythm, according to Virginie Sterpenich. “If we sleep a lot more on the weekend than during the week, we break the biological cycle (…) It is better not to sleep more than 1h30-2 hours more on the weekend than during the week,” she explains. .
The question was also asked by the site The Conversation to several specialists. While their response varies, everyone seems to agree that making up for lack of sleep on weekends does not make up for all the hours lost. “Chronic deprivation is bad for the brain,” explains neuroscientist Leonie Kirszenblat, according to whom recovering from lack of sleep on the weekend will not “help memorize things that should have been memorized” during the week.
Another solution to make up for a lack of sleep during the week: take a nap. “It can be useful to give yourself a little boost in compensation,” assures Virginie Sterpenich, according to whom the effect can be “beneficial” without making up for a “good night’s sleep.” She advises sticking to a duration of 20 to 30 minutes, between 1 and 3 p.m. “You have to take care of your sleep as you take care of your lifestyle,” concludes this specialist.