Saturday, August 26, 2006

Sleep Deprivation

Sleep Deprivation
By Emmanuel DeFreitas

Child SleepingReputable sleep experts will tell you that the average adult requires seven to eight hours of sleep at night. If you are getting less than the required minimum session of sleep, you are probably damaging your overall health. If you are regularly sleep deprived, you are probably suffering from decreased mental alertness, an impaired immune system and have an increased risk of being afflicted by various diseases, including diabetes.

There have been current studies that show that twenty percent of Americans suffer from bouts of daytime sleepiness. The cost in dollars and cents to productivity and personal suffering is astounding. One estimate alone puts the price tag at fifteen billion dollars in health care expenditures and over fifty billion dollars in lost productivity.

The overall importance to our well-being is impacted by the quality of our sleep just as much as diet and exercise. Sleep is a biological need. It is the same as food or air or water in that we cannot survive without them. The culture that we live in unfortunately dictates that many of us must sacrifice our overall health in order to beat a deadline at work, provide that extra customer service or make that extra sale. Whatever the reason for not getting enough sleep, the bottom line is that all of us lose... (Except the coffee pumping mega franchises).

Sleep disorders also play a huge role in depriving us of sleep. Over thirty million Americans suffer from sleep apnoea syndrome, which erratically collapses the airway at the back of the neck. This condition causes shallow breathing and escalates to periods where there is no air at all going into the lungs. The lack of oxygen will cause the sufferer to wake up hundreds of times during the night to gasp for air.

There are other sleep disorders such as insomnia, the most common, that can keep us from getting a good night sleep. Restless leg syndrome, a neurological disorder, and narcolepsy also interfere with our ability to sleep. The stress of our daily lives weighs heavy on our minds and makes it more difficult to relax sufficiently to sleep well.

Whatever the cause for a lack of sleep, whether it is from a disorder or from personal preferences or circumstances, the cost to your health is equally harmful. Sleep deprivation has a harmful affect on our cognitive abilities, our creativity and our alertness. It can also affect our decision-making, memory and skills. Insufficient sleep makes us feel drowsy and can even cause hallucinations. I can personally attest to having hallucinations from a lack of sleep caused by driving all night, without sleep, in order to arrive at a holiday destination early.

Sleep deprivation, according to researchers, can seriously affect our immune system, decrease body temperature, lower the release of growth hormones and even cause a higher heart rate and blood pressure. One recent study showed that young, healthy men that were subjected to sleep reductions of four hours a night for six consecutive days, showed an insulin resistance similar to elderly men and in people developing diabetes.

There is also a correlation between not getting enough sleep and obesity. A lack of sleep usually leads to an increase in appetite, late-night snacks and decreased physical activity or lethargy. The risk of developing a problem with obesity increases just over twenty percent with six hours of sleep to upwards of seventy percent with four hours of sleep per night.

The lack of alertness and lethargy we feel from not getting enough sleep also poses problems with our ability to function normally and safely in our everyday lives. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that people driving drowsy cause four percent of the up to one hundred and fifty thousand traffic accidents in the United States. The number if work site accidents caused by drowsy workers must be even more staggering.

The research and the numbers show a terrible price that is being paid on a daily basis across the United States of America and surely around the world concerning our overall lack of sleep. On average we sleep one hour less today than our parents did thirty years ago. It is a trend that does not bode well for the future and must be addressed before we all become too zombied-out to live our lives with a clear mind and a healthy body.

About the Author
Emmanuel DeFreitas is the administrator for
Adjustable Bed Center providing detailed information on electric, medical, cheap and used adjustable beds, as well as adjustable airbeds and adjustable bed reviews.

Picture: Child Sleeping

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