That we are not much sicker and much madder than we are is due exclusively to that most blessed and blessing of all natural grace , sleep.
~ Aldous Huxley
In today’s fast and ultra-modern world, more people than ever are sleep deprived. Everyday there seems to be twice (or thrice!) as much work and half as much time to complete it in.
In fact, a poll by the National Sleep Foundation reported that 65% of people do not get enough sleep. Sleep experts recommend an average of 8 hours of sleep each night. The financial loss to US businesses is estimated to be at least $18 billion each year.
Many tragedies that have been linked to human error were also due to severe sleep deprivation. Some examples include: Exxon Valdez oil spill, the NASA Challenger shuttle explosion, and the Chernobyl nuclear accident. At its extreme, sleep deprivation can lead to death, such as the famous death through overwork known as Karoshi in Japan.
So what causes sleep deprivation? Here is a short list.
- Not allowing enough time for sleep
- Anything that causes insomnia or poor quality sleep
- Environment (noise, temperature, bed partner’s snoring or periodic movements)
- Sleeping disorders (such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome)
- Anxiety, stress, or depression
- Misuse of caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and dangerous drugs
- Shift work
- Jet lag
- Medication (such as decongestants, antihistamines, betablockers)
- Health problems (diabetes, anemia, Alzheimer’s disease, heart and pulmonary diseases)
- Medical illness
Sleep deprivation is also known to have alarming consequences. In fact in a study published in the British journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, researchers in Australia and New Zealand report that sleep deprivation can have some of the same hazardous effects as being drunk.
Experts agree that sleep helps the brain recharge its energy and store memories for the long term. Sleep also helps the body fight off infection. People who don’t get enough sleep may lack energy, be depressed or irritable and get sick more often than people who get enough of it.
But the most common consequence of lost sleep has become a public health issue – sleeping behind the wheel. It has been estimated that the cost to society of sleep disorders that includes lost productivity, absenteeism at work, people getting into accidents and the cost of medications amount to billions of dollars a year.