How losing just a few hours of sleep can take YEARS off your life

How do you feel this morning? Well-rested? Looking forward to the weekend? Or did you wake, as I did half-way through last week, feeling even more exhausted than when you fell asleep?

The tiredness was just the start of it. I was also achy, cold and bewildered. My skin — normally perfectly healthy — was greasy and gritty. Though I’d had nothing to drink the night before, it felt like I had a thumping hangover.

These things, I half expected. But the mood swings I didn’t see coming. Normally, I am a resolutely chin-up sort of guy. When faced with life’s miseries, I am resilient to the point of shallowness. Not now. I was suddenly gripped by the fact that my pet cat was at the end of his middle years and one day he wouldn’t be with us at all. I was overtaken by despair, an intense desolation that quite destabilised my temperament. I felt utterly inconsolable.

It was the first of a series of powerful undertows of depression that swept over me unexpectedly in the days that followed. Everyday upsets could send my morale plummeting: the story of a vandalised bus shelter in my local paper or finding that all the pens on my desk had dried up.

Sometimes it took nothing at all to set me off, just the sudden sense that a yawning dark chasm had opened beneath me, echoing with the question: ‘What’s the point of anything?’

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