We’re all familiar with the age-old adage, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
American culture has an unfortunate tendency to belittle our bodies’ basic needs concerning sleep.
While we might feel more productive for a short period of work-induced sleeplessness, this sacrificing of necessary sleep can easily become a habit for which we pay the price in a variety ?of ways.
We must personally commit to improving our sleeping habits and changing our relationship with sleep.
If we keep putting off healthy resting, we will not be able to realize our full potential, no matter how much we attempt to convince ?ourselves otherwise.
I’m as guilty as the next person of neglecting my body’s need for healthy, ?routine sleep.
Often sleep can seem like a waste of productivity or our increasingly precious free time.
However, efforts to improve your sleeping can quickly become a habit that will allow you to function better during both work and play.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services defines sleep deprivation as the lack of sleep we are all familiar with; sleep deficiency, however, is a more complex concept.
In addition to not getting enough sleep, a deficiency can develop from sleeping at the wrong time of day, not sleeping well, not getting sufficient amounts of the different types of sleep your body needs, or from an undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorder.
The aforementioned “types” of sleep our bodies need are, in their basic forms, rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM.
REM is the phase of sleeping where dreaming typically occurs, while non-REM is considered deep sleep.
These two types occur in about three to five patterned cycles per night.
To be completed, these cycles typically take a target average of seven-and-a-half to nine hours of sleep.
Sleeping at odd hours of the day or frequently interrupting your sleep will throw off your circadian rhythm, or your body’s natural internal clock.
This generally can lead to a lack of non-REM sleep, depriving our bodies of the deep rest we need.
The sleep deficiency caused by these factors can greatly impair our performance at work, school and in social settings.
Common experiences we all share include difficulty focusing, learning and reacting.
Additionally, it can become more difficult to accurately judge other’s emotions and reactions because we may feel frustrated or worried in social situations.
Perhaps the most immediately dangerous side effect of sleep deficiency is falling asleep at the wheel.
According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention across 19 states and the District of Columbia, 4.2 percent of the 150,000 surveyed adults stated that they had fallen asleep while driving at least once in the past 30 days.
While it’s difficult to assess whether or not a fatal crash was caused by drowsy driving, the National Highway Traffic Administration estimated that 2.5 percent of fatal crashes involved drowsiness.
The long-term effects of sleep deficiency have been linked to the escalation of chronic health problems, such as heart disease, kidney disease, hypertension, diabetes, stroke, obesity and depression.
It’s time we all got serious about improving our sleeping habits.
Our lives are too long to ignore the health consequences and too valuable to spend our days unfocused and irritable.