Traditionally it has been said that we spend and need to spend one third of our life asleep. People in modern society have been somewhat conditioned to getting to sleep relatively late in the night. People rarely wait until they naturally awake from sleep – we rouse ourselves to the sound of a radio or alarm, getting up to meet personal and workplace schedules. Many people’s idea of bliss would be a chance to “lie in”, and get more sleep.
People need to get the sleep that they require during limited night time hours. Much stress is caused if we can’t sleep, knowing that we will have to get up, regardless of insomnia to go work the next morning. Families with new babies feel the pressure intensely, Until baby has learned to sleep solidly and soundly through the night – everyone in the family tends to suffer from sleep deprivation – particularly those families where parents are also working to a business schedule.
Lack of sleep is associated with irritability, lack of attention and focused concentration.
A study from Canada shows that generally women sleep more than men. Working full time is associated with sleeping less. Earning a high income is related to having less sleep. Men and women who work part time or don’t work have similar sleeping patterns – male full time workers sleep the least. Although women sleep longer than men they have more difficulty getting to sleep, and staying asleep through the night.
Shift work hours and doing work late at night impacts on quality sleep. Lack of good sleep is associated with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and depression – all top ranking disorders for causing early aging and often premature death. Shift work has a constant impact on worker fatigue – a shift worker might get the same hours of sleep but the quality of sleep is different.
Chronic lack of quality sleep has an impact on lifestyle and health.
Sleep problems have implications for everyone in the community. Sleep deprivation is associated with ADHD. In an American experiment with 50% ADHD and 50% sleep deprived children – researchers found that they could not reliably “spot the difference” between them.
Lack of good sleep and ADHD are related -but it remains at this time a chicken and egg question as to whether ADHD causes sleeplessness or whether a lack of healthy sleep leads to ADHD. Many ADHD kids are prescribed Ritalin, drugs to modify behavior without parents providing a supportive, calming environment, good nutrition and routines.
Studies have found that Melatonin release, necessary to prepare us for sleep is delayed in some people, some families. High levels of personal stress leading to delayed onset of sleep can be modified by calming, relaxing routines. To be able to go without sleep – endurance – is valued in our society – sometimes associated with success and having “drive”.
Better attitudes towards adequate rest and self nurturing need to be encouraged if people want to have more happiness and contentment. Sleep clinics cannot address the problem, only provide symptomatic relief until people deal with the causes of their inability to find healthy, restful sleep.
Sleep deprivation is also associated with autism. Again, there is a tendency to medicate with drugs rather than promote calming routines and patterns that reduce anxiety and tension and benefit all members of the family by encouraging set times and patterns for sleep.
Depression is a common outcome of chronic sleep deprivation, and the production of feel good chemicals is similarly depressed. High levels of dopamine are necessary to produce oxytocin - a chemical needed to feel strong affection, and maternal love. If dopamine levels are suppressed less oxytocin is produced - sleep deprivation leads to feelings of emotional depletion and exhaustion. People often turn to sleep drugs.
Today it would seem that suggested remedies for sleep deprivation, for people who want to avoid using drugs, consist of removing all the stress of the day, and putting in its place calming, reassuring routines. However, discovering the causes of a stress filled day and looking for possible remedies is more pro active and to be preferred than a monumental effort to try and wind down from overwhelming pressure and stress on a daily basis..
Many adults today take painkillers, antidepressants to help them to cope with their normal lifestyle. Our need to meet the conflicting demands of a busy lifestyle might need to be re-examined.
The causes of ADHD, autism and difficult behaviors might at the end of the day be resolved by reducing enironmental stress to the child and developing patterns that promote adequate rest, relaxation, and continued freedom from tension. The answer to sleep deprivation that diminishes our lifestyle is not to take sleep drugs but to change the habits in our life that promote sleep deprivation.
A 2005 study in the USA showed that people were taking more sleep medications than ever before, with $2.1 billion being spent and sleep drugs for children in the 10-19 year old age group rising by as much as 233% from 2004.
When large numbers of people fail to get enough quality sleep, and increasingly turn to sleep drugs, anti anxiety or anti depressant medications it is time to stop and think about making some serious lifestyle changes, that will promote a contented life, and enable people to begin to get some healthy, relaxing sleep.