There are lots of things we can do to make sure we get a good night’s sleep but, frankly, many of us just don’t do them.
Our society is vastly different from that of our long-ago agricultural past. Once upon a time, people would get up with the sun, and expected to start winding down their day the sun went down–unless, of course, they wanted to use precious lamp oil or candles to light their nighttime activities.
Nowadays, with electric lights, 24/7 food availability, constant internet and cell phone access, and late night coffee shops, it’s possible to extend our daytime activities far into the night as well.
However, at what cost? As my mother has said since I was little, “Morning comes very early.” There is no escaping it, and unless you get the chance to sleep in, a long night and early morning is going to guarantee a sleep-deprived day. And that impacts everyone.
There is an actual monetary impact on our economy due to the “National Sleep Debt” and the associated lost productivity, poor performance, absenteeism, accidents, and illness. Estimates by Cornell University in 1998 estimated that economic loss to be about $150 billion each year in the United States alone.
Then there are the personal costs as well. Sleep deprivation impacts each of us personally by increasing our stress levels, damaging our health, and affecting our ability to work and travel. We can even expect our weight to increase due to sleepiness: as anyone who’s tired has probably already figured out, on sleepy days, you eat more, as your body tries desperately to find some source of energy to keep you going. Columbia University researchers studied the effects of sleepiness on diet, and discovered that a tired person eats an average of 300 more calories per day–women ate slightly more, and men slightly less.
It is very tempting to push the boundaries with sleep; we’ve all grown to expect that a dose of caffeine or a magic bottle of energy drink will keep us going, so that we can get through the day…or have fun in the evening. Perhaps what we really need to do is to put away the energy drink, turn out the lights, and just get a good night’s sleep.
Below is a preview for a documentary on Sleep Deprivation. It is Eyes Wide Open, and comes from Journeyman Pictures in Australia.
Although this is just a ten minute preview, and not the full film, it will give you a valuable look at the seriousness of sleep deprivation. It also reminds us that it’s not just Americans who are suffering from a sleep debt; it’s happening in developed countries all over the world.
Warning: This clip does include a video of a man who falls asleep at the wheel, and who then gets thrown around his vehicle in a car wreck. It occurs at about a minute into the preview. If you find those sorts of images disturbing, be forewarned and proceed at your own discretion!