Sleep deprivation, dangers and way out

Sleep deprivation is when an individual gets less sleep than needed to feel awake and alert. People vary in how little sleep is needed to be considered sleep-deprived. Some people such as older adults seem to be more resistant to the effects of sleep deprivation, while others, especially children and young adults, are more vulnerable.

According to Wikipedia sleep is a naturally recurring state of mind and body characterized by altered consciousness, relatively inhibited sensory activity, inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles, and reduced interactions with surroundings. It is distinguished from wakefulness by a decreased ability to react to stimuli, but is more easily reversed than the state of being comatose.

 

Sleep level recommendations

The sleep foundation had recommended a new sleep duration for all categories of people;

  • Newborns (0-3 months ): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

 

Etiology of sleep deprivation

It is a known fact that a lot of people are deprived of good sleep, either because of sleep apnea or their occupation. Short sleep duration (< 7 hours per day) has been linked to various negative health outcomes including cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression, as well as safety issues related to drowsy driving and injuries. Each year, short sleep duration among the U.S. working population accounts for an estimated $411 billion cost to the economy and results in 1.2 million lost work days. Because work-related factors such as job stress and shift work are associated with sleep duration and quality, the workplace should be considered in the development of interventions.

An article posted on NIOSH website on March 6th, 2017 highlighted occupational group with highest level of sleep deprivation. It states thus:

“On March 3, 2017, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published an article on short sleep duration by occupation group among 29 states using data from the 2013 and 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).  The survey responses for the question, “On average, how many hours of sleep do you get in a 24-hour period” were categorized as either short sleep (< 7 hours) or sufficient sleep (≥ 7 hours).  The study found that among 22 major occupation groups, the highest prevalences of short sleep duration were among production (42.9%); healthcare support (40.1%); and healthcare practitioners and technical (40.0%) occupations. Prior research has found that these three occupation groups also have some of the highest prevalence rates of alternative shift work. A NIOSH study performed using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that night shift workers reported short sleep duration more frequently compared to daytime workers.

The current study on short sleep duration by occupation group also found that when broken down further into 93 detailed occupation groups, two out of the three groups with the highest prevalence of short sleep duration were transportation occupation groups: other transportation workers (54.0%) and rail transportation workers (52.7%). The Railroaders’ Guide to Healthy Sleep provides information for workers and managers on how to improve sleep and create a better work and life balance.”

How to ensure a health sleep pattern

To begin a new path towards healthier sleep and a healthier lifestyle, begin by assessing your own individual needs and habits. See how you respond to different amounts of sleep.

Pay careful attention to your mood, energy and health after a poor night’s sleep versus a good one. Ask yourself, “How often do I get a good night’s sleep?” Like good diet and exercise, sleep is a critical component to overall health.

To pave the way for better sleep, follow these simple yet effective healthy sleep tips, including:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule, even on weekends.
  • Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual.
  • Exercise
  • Evaluate your bedroom to ensure ideal temperature, sound and light.
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Beware of hidden sleep stealers, like alcohol and caffeine.
  • Turn off electronics before bed.

If you or a family member are experiencing symptoms such as sleepiness during the day or when you expect to be awake and alert, snoring, leg cramps or tingling, gasping or difficulty breathing during sleep, prolonged insomnia or another symptom that is preventing you from sleeping well, you should consult your primary care physician or  find a sleep professional to determine the underlying cause.

Most importantly, make sleep a priority. You must schedule sleep like any other daily activity, so put it on your “to-do list” and cross it off every night. But don’t make it the thing you do only after everything else is done – stop doing other things so you get the sleep you need.

Reference: NIOSH site

 

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