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Sleep Epidemic Puts Public at Risk and Continues to Grow, Globally

A sleep epidemic is profoundly affecting people from all income levels and professions on a global scale.

This global sleep epidemic in developed and developing countries has a domino effect of important health and safety implications that call for making sleep a top priority.sleep epidemic

Sleep Epidemic

People throughout the world are suffering from poor quality sleep.  This global sleep epidemic affects our mood, memory, weight, concentration, performance, and other aspects of our lives.

Dr. David Hillman, a clinical professor at the University of Western Australia, told the New York Times,

“Inadequate sleep is too easily accepted into the community as part of life.  Sleep is [seen as] an indulgence.”

Moreover, many students trying to succeed in schools, colleges, and universities, engage in all-nighters…spending her or his time cramming for exams. This study cramming lasts into the early morning hours.

According to a recent study, these students become extremely exhausted, and their academic performance is suffering for it.

Health columnist Jane Brody of the New York Times wrote,

“Many college-bound kids start out with dreadful sleep habits that are likely to get worse once the rigorous demands of college courses and competing social and athletic activities kick in.”

Causes of Sleep Deprivation

Without a doubt, schools and university campuses are filled with sleep-deprived students, and according to new research, the epidemic is more detrimental than imagined.

The sleep duration of people around the world has decreased by almost two hours per day, in the past 50 years.  During that course of time, the medical community has seen a leap in the incidences of chronic diseases and conditions including obesity and diabetes. Moreover, 75 percent of adults experience daytime sleepiness, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

In addition, one third of these adults believe it interferes with their daily activities. There are many causes of sleepiness. Our technology-driven society undoubtedly causes us to lose sleep…increasing the amount of victims of this sleep epidemic.

Financial worries and anxiety disorders are also unwanted culprits that keep people awake at night. Additionally, sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea contribute to the lack of sleep for many. Some people shrug off sleepiness.  They resort to heavy doses of caffeine to help keep them awake.

However, they may not realize how negatively this approach affects their health. Accordingly, there’s strong evidence linking the global sleep epidemic and sleep deprivation to diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and other unwanted conditions.

Unfortunately, by themselves, these conditions also interfere with sleep quality — creating a ferocious cycle of fatigue. The lack of sleep may also weaken the immune system and shrug off your appetite and attitude.

The Conditions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has raised sleep disorders to epidemic status, reflecting the growing concerns regarding the dangers associated with the lack of sleep.

Increasingly, sleep disorders such as insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea are placing those who suffer from these conditions and the public at large at greater risk of industrial accidents, medical mistakes, and car crashes.

In addition, sleep disorders represent an increasing risk to public health, contributing to a host of medical conditions, including depression, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.

Adverse conditions from the lack of sleep:

  • Depression and anxiety — Overwhelmingly, insomnia is one of the most common symptoms and is one of the most closely linked sleep disorders to mood issues. Inadequate sleep will make someone more prone to depression.  Worry and depression interferes with one’s ability to sleep.
  • Forgetfulness — It’s believed that information that is learned during the day is processed and transferred in the brain from the hippocampus to the neocortex during sleep. This process doesn’t occur and information is not stored without adequate sleep.
  • Weakness — Your body doesn’t release enough of the human growth hormone when you don’t get enough sleep. For a young person, this hormone promotes growth.  As we age, the human growth hormone helps to strengthen bones, increase muscle mass, and thicken skin. Therefore, the lack of sleep will literally make you weak.
  • Impaired judgment — Reflexes and reaction times are slow.  It becomes hard to concentrate and stay awake and alert. This may lead to an inability to perform tasks, especially those that require complex thinking and coordination. Moreover, the National Highway and Safety Administration estimates that fatigue contributes to 100,000 car crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths per year. Likewise, sleep deprived people are more prone to accidents at work.

The Cure

Education is the cure.  It starts with education at a young age.  In general, people need to be more educated about the importance of sleep, as poor sleeping habits often start early in life.

It’s been scientifically proven that well-rested employees are more productive at work and happier in general. If you’re concerned about how tired you feel, there might be some simple explanations.

The most basic reason is you’re not getting enough sleep. According to the CDC, one-third of Americans don’t get the recommended seven or more hours a night. Moreover, many people’s needs vary, requiring more than seven hours of sleep.

Here are some ways to get better sleep:

  • Avoid certain food and drink — Avoid caffeine, including coffee, soda, teas, and spicy foods at least six hours before bedtime.  Don’t drink alcohol close to bedtime. Contrary to what many think, alcohol won’t make you sleep well.  Initially, you may fall asleep but within a few hours…as the body starts to eliminate the alcohol…the alcohol will wake you or, cause a restless sleep.
  • If you’re not tired, don’t go to sleep — People often make the mistake of trying to go to sleep before they’re ready.  Unfortunately, this leads to a cycle of not sleeping and worry about being up. Even though you may think you’re doing a good thing by getting into bed by a certain hour, you may actually be causing the problem. If you go to bed when you’re not tired, you may end up turning, tossing, and worrying about not being able to fall asleep. Therefore, get into bed only when you’re tired.
  • When you’re tired, go to sleep — Your brain sends you a clear signal, telling you that you need sleep. It will be harder for you to sleep later and you’ll be overtired if you don’t get to sleep when you’re tired.  Pay attention to the signals your brain is sending you and get in bed, rather than fighting it.
  • Turn off electric gadgets — If you rely on your smartphone as an alarm clock, be aware that lights — including those generated by devices — are incompatible with sleep.  They can trick your brain into staying awake when you should be sleeping. Electronic gadgets such as tablets and phones stimulate the brain.  These triggering electronic devices are counter to what you’re trying to achieve as you unwind for the night. Make your bedroom a device-free zone close to bedtime.  Don’t sleep with your cell phone by your head. Unconsciously, your brain may not allow you to get into a deep sleep…anticipating that a call or text message might come through inches away from you.
  • Be Active — Being active helps to reduce stress and leads to overall wellness. Exercise will increase your drive for sleep. Exercise creates feelings of calm and relaxation.

Take Control

You can ensure a better night’s sleep by focusing on the things that you have control over. If you become anxious about not being able to sleep better, try to change the way you think about it. In most cases, the sleep epidemic we’re in the midst of is a fixable issue…related to our lifestyle.

Maybe it’s about stress or physical discomfort that keeps us awake. Perhaps relationships or finances play a part in this global sleep epidemic and sleep deprivation around the globe.

Whatever the case, there are important safety and health implications related to this global issue.  Avoiding sleep deprivation calls for making sleep a top priority.

Know that exercise, diet, and sleep make an essential contribution to our overall health and well-being. Help stop the sleep epidemic by giving yourself some more sleep.

About the author: George Zapo is certified in Public Health Promotion and Education (Kent State University). George provides informative articles promoting healthy behavior and lifestyles.

2 comments… add one
  • Carolyn Coleman Grady

    Excellent information. Sleep depreciation affects so many in our society. Our culture is consumed with so much noise, and lack of life balance which created sleep issues. I loved this information thank you

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