Who has time to sleep? Most people are so busy working or trying to get an education that the place where time is cut back is sleeping. Sleep is one of the one of the body’s biological rhythms, a cycle that must be experienced. No matter how much someone tries to stay awake, eventually they must sleep.
How Much Sleep is Needed?
The answer of how much sleep a person needs varies from person to person and is determined by certain criteria such as age and possible inherited sleep needs, but most people need seven to eight hours of sleep each 24-hour period in order to function well. Some people are short sleepers, needing only four or five hours, whereas others are long sleepers and nine or ten hours of sleep (McCann & Stewin, 1988).
How Serious is the Problem of Sleep Deprivation?
Sleep expert Dr. William Dement believes that people are ignorant of the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation. Here are some of the facts he points out concerning the widespread nature of sleep deprivation:
- 55% of drowsy driving fatalities occur under the age of 25.
- 56% of the adult population reports that daytime drowsiness is a problem.
- In a study of 1,000 people who reported no daytime drowsiness, 34% were actually found to be dangerously sleepy.
Dr. Dement cautions that drowsiness should be considered a red alert. Contrary to many people’s belief that drowsiness indicates the first step in falling asleep, he states that drowsiness is the last step.
More facts (data taken from Williamson & Feyer):
- 30% to 40% of all heavy truck accidents can be attributed to driver fatigue.
- Drivers who are awake for 17 to 19 hours were more dangerous than drivers with a blood alcohol level of .05.
- 16% to 60% of road accidents involve sleep deprivation (the wide variation is due to the inability to confirm the cause of the accidents, as the drivers are often killed).
- Sleep deprivation is linked to higher levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and unnecessary risk taking
Causes of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep disorders are a big contributor to sleep deprivation. Common sleep disorders include sleep apnea, narcolepsy, sleepwalking, night terrors, and a condition called “restless leg syndrome.” These are not the only, or the most common, reason for sleep deprivation.
The most obvious cause is the refusal to of many people to go to sleep at a reasonable time in order to get the eight hours of sleep that most adults need in order to function well. People want to watch that last bit of news or get a little more work done. Another reason for sleep loss is worry. Another is the medications people take. Both prescription and over-the-counter drugs can interfere with the sleep–wake cycle (Bonnet & Arand, 1995).
Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation may be a problem if:
- an alarm clock is needed to wake up
- getting out of bed in the morning is a struggle
- feeling tired, irritable, or stressed out for much of the day is common
- having trouble concentrating or remembering is noticed
- falling asleep happens while watching TV, in meetings, lectures, or warm rooms
- falling asleep happens after heavy meals or after a low dose of alcohol
- falling asleep happens within five minutes of getting into bed (a well-rested person actually takes 15 to 20 minutes to fall asleep.)
What Does Sleep Do for the Body?
According to the restorative theory, sleep is necessary to the physical health of the body. During sleep, chemicals that were used up during the day’s activities are replenished and cellular damage is repaired (Adam, 1980; Moldofsky, 1995). There is evidence that most bodily growth and repair occur during the deepest stages of sleep, when enzymes responsible for these functions are secreted in higher amounts.