Sleep, like Breathing and Eating, is a vital function. As without air, food and water life is not sustainable, sleep has an essential and unique role for human life. Sleep, like Breathing and Eating, is ruled by the brain. Sleep is a cyclical and reversible loss of awareness accompanied by changes in all bodily functions. During sleep certain parts of the brain are very active, some dealing with recovery processes, others with memory organization learning, and emotions processing, all those while toxic waste is cleared at an accelerated pace.
While the mystery of sleep fascinated human mind since the dawn of history, the knowledge and understanding regarding the function and nature of sleep have been acquired mostly during the last century. This is the main reason why we intuitively understand why Breathing and Eating are vital, whereas we still consider sleep dispensable, a luxury. Clearly a few minutes without breathing and a few days without food and water cause death, while the effect of sleep loss is less evident.
There is ever growing evidence that abnormal or insufficient sleep is connected with reduced life expectancy, very significant health problems and mood disorders, as well as cognitive and physical performance impairment. After total sleep deprivation of only 24 hours sleep occurs involuntarily, causing wakefulness lapses that may lead to life threatening events and deadly accidents.
Sleep Deficit Disorders
We are well aware of how our activities and stress influence sleep, how daily events and emotions as well as physical conditions such as pain or environmental temperature or noise may keep sleep away. We are not aware of the toll sleep deficits of any kind have on general health, daily function, mood, and safety. Sleep Deficit Disorders include:
- Insufficient sleep
- Extended sleep beyond individual needs
- Poor sleep
- Harmful sleep-related habits
- Medical sleep disorders
Insufficient sleep became an epidemic. Studies indicate that almost half of the population of the developed world sleep less than the recommended 7 to 7.5 hours a night, with a third allowing for less than 6 hour a night. Poor sleep ranges from difficulties falling asleep, long night-time awakenings, earlier or later than intended wake up, waking up not refreshed or having a hard time to wake up, to any combination of those and to Insomnia as a medical condition. Harmful sleep related habits are pervasive and cause sleep disturbances and poor sleep.
Those habits include: irregular sleep hours; extensive usage of media and electronic devices late during the day, before bed time, or instead sleep time; exaggerated caffeine intake including caffeinated drinks at late hours; alcohol consumption at late hours or as a night cap; heavy meals to close to bedtime; strenuous exercise very late during the day; long naps; a sedentary life. Medical sleep disorders include Sleep Related Breathing Disorders such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome and more, Periodic Limb Movement of Sleep, Parasomnias, Narcolepsy, and more. The most prevalent medical sleep disorder is Obstructive Sleep Apnea, with over 10% of the general population affected. Medical sleep disorders may coexist with any of the other Sleep Deficit Disorders; they require professional attention and appropriate treatment.
Sleep Deficit Disorders have very significant individual consequences, starting with daytime sleepiness usually fought with habitual excessive consumption of caffeinated drinks that cause further sleep impairment. One gets so used to being chronically tired and sleepy that the condition becomes a second nature and no solution is sought or apparent. This represents a fertile ground for the other serious consequences of Sleep Deficit Disorders: heart disease and hypertension, overweight, obesity and diabetes, stroke, memory and cognitive impairment, immune system malfunction, abuse of prescription and over the counter sleep pills, mood instability and depression, accidents due to attention lapses or falling asleep on task, social and relationship difficulties. This is a long and incomplete list of serious consequences of Sleep Disorders Deficits that are connected with an overall decreased quality of life and lower life expectancy.
Sleep Deficit Disorders represent a pandemic, and they are interconnected with the other widespread health problems of the developed world such as overweight, diabetes, and heart disease.
Sleep Deficit Disorders are increasingly recognized as potential killer in the 21st century. It is time to wake up and take action both at individual, and at societal levels.
Sleep Life Balance
Babies sleep 16 to 18 hours a day at the beginning of their lives. They need it for their growth, development, and health. Gradually the duration and structure of sleep evolves to adult patterns. Human beings spend a third of their lives sleeping, hence about 30 years, and that includes some 10 years of dreaming. Clearly this is the hidden, usually disregarded third of our life, though it is a vital third that keeps the whole going. Sleep and wakefulness alternate in a way that is ruled involuntarily by two processes: (S) sleep need, which builds up starting when one wakes up and culminates sometime in late evening, declines again during sleep to reach a minimum upon waking up in the morning; (C) biological clock that rules over alternating wakefulness-sleep cycles, with sleep occurring normally during dark time, and with a period a bit longer than 24 hours. Processes S and C have to be synchronized in order to result in normal sleep. Additional factors influence sleep duration and quality. Those include age, genetic characteristics and health, as well as motivation, social, and environmental factors.
The last two centuries with the industrial revolution and the artificial light allowed prolonging active and working hours; shift work became a necessity and involves more than 20% of the work power. In no time, the computer-digital and media era brought an additional revolution with an always-on society and instantaneous propagation of information. No time for adaptation of individuals to the new and exciting opportunities and to the burden of demands. Long wake hours occupied by mostly sedentary activities, availability of refined food with high energy content achievable just by pressing a button, computers, smartphones and internet stealing sleep hours simply due to procrastination with the endless distractors that keep us awake; just a couple of more work hours to finish an urgent task, a few more mails, a chat, a few blogs or posts, the last addictive TV series…
The balance is broken. We perceive sleep as a dispensable indulgence, a mere luxury. The price is unconceivably high. The lost Sleep-Life Balance impacts our health, mood, performance, wellbeing. Sleep Deficit neither improves nor lengthens life; Sleep Deficit jeopardizes individual life and is counterproductive for any human organization and for the society as a whole.
Sleep Deficit Disorders | Sleep Rate – https://www.sleeprate.com/sm-article/sleep-deficit-disorder/