March 14, 2008 was designated the first World Sleep Day. Sleep experts from around the world gathered in Cyprus to discuss the world of sleep and the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders. This event was organized by the Institute of Neurology and Genetics and entitled "Sleep well, live fully awake."
The Institute said in a statement: "Nobody knows why sleep occurs but all agree that sleep is an essential and unavoidable biological function that is a privilege and should be an individual right for all." Sleep deprivation leads to both physical and mental problems.
Causes of sleep deprivation, as well as poor choices in lifestyle, include sleep disorders including sleep apnea, insomnia and restless legs syndrome. This is just a fraction of the 80 or more sleep disorders so far identified. Shift work also contributes to the problem. The use of sleeping pills continues to grow.
Usually sleep disorders cause a lack of sleep. However, in one disorder, hypersomnia, victims are unable to stay awake and must take numerous naps during the day.
WHY SHOULD YOU SLEEP?
Why should you sleep? Everyone needs sleep. Without sleep, people are less efficient and more irritable. All adults require from seven to nine hours of sleep to function at optimum level. Sleep gives your body a chance to rest and make any necessary repairs, not just from illness and injury, but from the stress and strain of everyday life.
However, the majority of people suffer, to some degree, from sleep deprivation. Some of this may be by choice, from trying to combine a busy work schedule and a full social life to the detriment of a restful sleep. The three main causes of sleep deprivation are:
- Social Activities
- Work shift patterns
- Sleep Disorders
Other causes are stress, jet lag, environmental interference such as temperature or noise, physical factors such as hormonal shifts or the discomfort of pregnancy, and some medications.
A lack of sleep causes many problems. It increases the stress of daily living, makes doing even simple tasks difficult, impairs the memory and increases the number of mistakes made both on the job and in the home. It can even cause strained relationships and job absenteeism.
Worst of all, though, sleep deprivation can be dangerous. It causes accidents on the job, in the home, and, most serious of all, on the highway. According to James Maas, Cornell University psychologist and sleep expert, drivers who fall asleep at the wheel claim around 1500 lives each year in the United States The cost to the economy is at least $150 billion annually. BBC News advocates regarding driving while tired in the same class as drunk driving.
In his book Power Sleep, Professor Maas discusses the theory of power napping, of taking very short naps of ten or fifteen minters to refresh the mind and body. He also includes a list of true or false statements about sleep and waking problems to determine if the reader is sleep deprived.
It may not be possible to completely
- Cut down on coffee, alcohol and other stimulants.
- Keep a regular schedule.
- Try some light exercise earlier in the day.
- Spend some quiet time before you go to bed.
- Decrease stress at bedtime.