The Epidemic of Sleep Deprivation: A Silent Killer

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Everyone in the world is tired. As each day passes, it feels like there’s never enough time in the day to get everything checked off the list. Our schedules are busier; we’re running here and there, never getting a chance to sit down and take a time-out.

At work, your mind is drifting, thinking about what you need to make for dinner or why you agreed to take your son’s soccer team out for pizza. By the time you’re home, you’re done. You turn on the television and drown yourself in a new episode of the latest show while folding laundry or scroll through the internet. By the time you even consider going to bed, you look at the alarm and think about how you have to get up in five hours to do it all over again. This is a typical day for most people.

But these busy schedules aren’t natural. As a consequence, they’re disrupting our sleeping patterns. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that over one-third of the adult population in the U.S. sleeps less than the recommended minimum of 7 hours per night. This “7-hour rule” wasn’t formulated by companies so that you’ll hunt for the best pillows on the market. It was created after a panel of experts reviewed over 5,000 scientific studies relating to sleep deprivation. And what was found was that sleep deprivation is correlated with shorter lifespans, and health conditions such as heart disease, and cancer.

Over the years, there’s been an increase in sleep disorders including insomnia, but also those who simply aren’t getting enough sleep. As Professor Matthew Walker, a British neuroscientist, and director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley states, “I think sleep is still a missing piece in the puzzle of people’s health. It’s not something people are necessarily recognizing as a critical issue when comes to fighting disease and sickness. And that’s partly the fault of people like me: the science has not been communicated well enough.”

But we’ve all said to ourselves, “I’m feeling really tired; I’m going to go to bed early tonight.” Yet, we’re still unaware of the need to sleep. We may be tired one day, and sleep a proper eight hours that night, but then we go back to the same routine of sleep deprivation. So, why aren’t we more aware that we need to sleep? Well, there are a couple of reasons why.

Firstly, our societies are built to produce and consume. Many of us are commuting to work, even spending after-hours connected to our email and phone. While we’re continuing to stay connected to work outside of working hours, we also need to connect with our family and friends. Not to mention, staying updated on social media as well. Essentially, from morning to night, we’re always on. We don’t spend time separating ourselves from the very things that are emotionally and mentally draining us.

Secondly, we have a love-hate relationship with sleep. Of course, everyone loves sleeping, but getting a full eight-hour rest is usually associated with being lazy. Since we live in a consumer culture, no one is advocating a good night’s sleep. If anything, the more you stay awake, the more motivated you appear to the people around. “Oh wow, George is such a hard worker. He only sleeps four hours a night.” Most people would be impressed by this statement, rather than being severely concerned about George’s mental health. So, yes, we’re surrounded by technology and always connected to work and social media. But our outlook on productivity is also what’s causing us to sleep less.

How to Fight the Sleep Epidemic

As we’re now in the era of self-care and self-compassion, it’s time to give ourselves a break. Our society needs to change its outlook on sleep and adopt a healthier lifestyle. Though just because it may not happen on a societal scale any time soon, it doesn’t mean you can’t change your relationship with sleep.

There are quick and effortless ways to improve your sleep. Create a sleep routine and go to bed at a consistent time every night. Lay off the caffeine so late during the late afternoons and evenings. And most importantly, remove the blue light from your all devices and avoid using them a couple of hours before bed. Just by making these small changes, your life will never be the same – in a good way. Until society starts to wake up and realize the sleep epidemic is much more severe than they thought, improve your own life by focusing on getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night.

The answer to a long and healthy life is much simpler than you think. What it really comes down to is having a good night’s sleep.

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