Sleep is for the Weak???

“Sleep… must get sleep…” That’s what my brain is currently telling me as I write this. However, this isn’t a rare occurrence for me to be sleep deprived and exhausted because of my lack of sleep. To top things off, I’m not the only one who is tired and exhausted; millions of other Americans are sharing my dilemma. So what of it? Well, America as we know it, is once again hit by an epidemic. Although this time we don’t even realize that the disease has already plagued through the Union.

For a while we have considered sleep deprivation to be an individual problem. However, with recent studies, it is safe to assume that the lack of sleep or sleep deprivation is a public health concern. In the article Population Reference Bureau written by Lori Hunter, the CDC reports 50 million to 70 million people in the United States suffer from a form of sleep disorder. In turn, this has resulted in over a third of our population getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night. Be mindful that a typical, healthy adult should sleep about 7 to 9 hours per night.

Ms. Hunter also includes the devastating social effects due to the lack of sleep. The National Department of Transportation has reported 1,550 deaths and over 40,000 injuries on roadways that are the results of drowsy drivers. Now these numbers cannot be overlooked. Over a thousand lives could’ve been saved had sleep deprivation become a greater national concern. Hunter goes even further and explains the causes and effects of sleep deprivation. Work and school stress are one of many causes to our sleep problems. Late night shifts and staying up late to study have all resulted in poor sleeping habits, which evolves into major sleep deprivation. The full economic cost of sleep deprivation has not been calculated, but it is safe to say that productivity in a work or school environment has greatly decreased. Blatantly put, our society has overlooked a detrimental crisis that will continue to haunt us until we start making changes.

(DO NOT END UP LIKE THIS GUY!)

So far we’ve touched on how sleep deprivation has affected young “adults”, but have yet to shed light on sleep deprivation in the teen community. Siri Carpenter of the American Psychological Association composed her own essay on the severity of sleep deprivation. In her essay, she discussed the crippling effects of sleep deprivation in our teen population. An interesting point that she brings up is the absurd start time for school. Most public schools in the United States start around 7:30 AM to 8 AM. To make these hours worse, buses come much earlier forcing those who do not drive to school to wake up much earlier. Pair this with the fact that many teens going to bed late at night results in catastrophe to come.

Teens, such as myself, go to bed late at night usually because of stress and other academic related issues. So it wouldn’t be uncommon for the average teen to go to sleep around midnight. The problem with this is that early school hours and late nights do not go well. Productivity in the learning environment is hindered because many of our administrators fail to make changes that would soften the blow of sleep deprivation. Note that I said “many” because there has been some changes made to compensate for sleep deprivation.

(Me EVERY other day…)

Some of these changes include having later school hours and providing better stress management skills to students. However, these changes are still on a small scale and are not yet a concern on a national scale. Sure teachers realize that their students need more sleep, but if the administrative body doesn’t make a move, then change will never occur.

Let’s get back to my main focus, sleep deprivation. Sleep is still a great mystery to us, many studies have been conducted and have produced very little knowledge about why we sleep. However, through sleep deprivation we can see the effects of having very little sleep. This interesting segment in our study of sleep has created the rumor of “sleep debt”. Many have argued how sleep debt works and how you can recover sleep when you’re “in debt” to your sleep. Interestingly enough, sleep debt is simply just sleep deprivation. The rumor is that if you lose 5 hours of sleep a week, you can make it up by sleeping 5 hours extra that week. The thing is sleep deprivation is not remedied as the rumor tells it. Just simply getting a good 2 or 3 hours extra sleep a night or two can easily heal even those who are heavily sleep deprived or “in debt”.

Although there are many problems with trying to get more sleep a night. Many people live with the notion that life is short be awake,a notation that has been popularized by the coffee industry. Which brings me to my point, people are not getting more sleep rather they are trying to stay awake longer by drinking coffee thinking that it will lessen their sleepiness. But they are only setting themselves up for more hours of restlessness and will continue being “in debt” to sleep.

TED Talk: One more reason to get a good night sleep By: Jeff Iliff

Bottom line is sleep deprivation is a dangerous thing because our society hasn’t put enough emphasis on the importance of sleep. It has resulted in lower productivity and has cost the lives of thousands. It is time for a national movement to put an end to sleep deprivation! We have lived too long under the notion that “sleep is for the weak”. So start today by getting a bit more sleep. Don’t allow stress and other problems get in between you and your sleep because if you do, it may be the last time you sleep. Now I can finally listen to my brains plea and go to sleep and you should too because you’re probably reading this around 12 AM on a school night.

(Wish I could sleep like this cat…)

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