Humans used to sleep a lot more than we do now. Granted our lives are no longer quite as active as when we were running from sabre tooth tigers and sleeping in caves. But it was the arrival of artificial light that really changed our sleeping habits – not how tired people might be from long work days and harsher living conditions. Even then, there was a moral side to sleeping less that continues to this day.
How many productivity suggestions tell you to get up earlier in order to fit more in? How many coffee-blooded people extol the virtue of five hours a night? Just because modern technology makes it possible to work twenty-four hours a day doesn’t mean that it is physically possible – or that we should want to.
The body needs sleep. Research has shown that people can die from a lack of sleep well before they die from a lack of food. Ten days without sleep is thought to be the hard limit, versus up to thirty without eating. For most people neither sounds much fun. While we all know the symptoms of hunger can we recognise when we are not getting enough sleep?
Sleep disorders affect many people and suffering from tiredness is seen as just part of being human. But a lack of sleep can cause issues from bad moods to accidents and health related problems of all kinds.
Sleep deprivation – whether from staying up late and difficulty falling asleep, waking in the night or waking too early – causes irritability, mood swings, carelessness and lack of concentration. This in turn can affect our relationships, work and cause accidents. Quality of sleep affects our ability to learn, to form new memories and be creative. Sleep deprivation has been shown to decrease our abilities as much as being drunk and is a tragic cause of road traffic accidents in the same way.
There is a long list of medical issues too. Our bodies need sleep to heal and grow. Without it we can suffer from stress, depression, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.
Next week we will look in more detail at the science behind sleep deprivation.
Do you think you suffer from any of these sleep deprivation symptoms? How common do you think sleep deprivation really is?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!