According to the documentary Sleepless in America, co-produced by the National Geographic Channel, 40 percent of Americans are sleep deprived. Many get less than five hours of sleep per night. Percentage-wise, adolescents are among the most sleep deprived, according to the documentary.
In an interview with Dan Pardi, a sleep researcher, people have their sleep-wakefulness biorhythms disturbed by spending too much time indoors out of natural sunlight and working under artificial lighting.
Cells in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) are activated from natural light entering your eye. These nuclei synchronize your diurnal/nocturnal rhythms and this master clock is disrupted when you do not get enough natural daylight.
These nuclei synchronize to the light-dark cycle of your environment when light enters your eye. You also have other biological clocks throughout your body that are synchronized to your master clock by the natural hormone Melatonin. Melatonin is synthesized by the pineal gland and controls healthy immune response, acts as a potent antioxidant and can reprogram your sleep cycle.
Bright artificial light at night also disrupts the body’s master clock.
15 million people in the U.S. work night shifts and humans are never really are able to fully adopt to sleeping during the day – we are diurnal creatures and we are programmed to be that that way. Three years of night shift work raises the risk of permanent loss of healthy glycemic control by 20%. This risk increases as time goes on. At some point, restorative sleep becomes impossible.
Life-threatening consequences of sleep deprivation include possible environmental risks of devastating car, ship and machinery accidents along with the known physiological risks of poor circulation, unhealthy blood glucose levels and fluctuating blood sugar. The risk of heart attacks, sudden death and cardiovascular disease are also greatly elevated by sleep deprivation.
The risk of developing Metabolic irregularities, including weight gain, obesity and insulin resistance are also greatly increased by lack of sufficient sleep over extended periods of time.Brain dysfunctions from lack of sleep include the risk of permanent poor mental function, poor mental outlook and improper cell division.
Staying in Tune With Nature
Maintaining enough natural sun exposure each day in one crucial component of healthy sleeping. The natural rhythm of getting enough sunlight during the day and going to sleep when the sun goes down is what farmers and our ancestors grew up on before electricity came into play.
Short Term Results of Sleep Deprivation
- Reaction time slows. Sleeplessness behind the wheel is almost as dangerous as drunk driving.
- Ability to remember things diminishes.
- Ability to perform even simple tasks is impaired.
- Arguments, temper and personal relationships are jeopardized.
- Your cognitive abilities are impaired both in the short term and in the long term. Sleep-deprived mice lost 25% of their brain stem neurons permanently – cells that control cognitive abilities.
- You will have trouble processing information.
- People who work 24 hours straight have a 170% increase in car accidents.
- Learning and memory declines.
- Sleep deprivation prevents disposal of oxidized or damaged brain proteins leading to increased risk of poor permanent cognition.
- Immune function deteriorates.
Sleep Requirement – 8 Hours of Sleep Every Night
If you get less than eight hours of sleep you are fooling yourself – you sometimes wake up several times during the night or have shallow sleep episodes with insufficient REM, or Rapid Eye Movement sleep, indicating deep sleep characterized by dreaming.
An average American gets only 6.5 hours sleep per work night but actually need about 7.25 hours sleep to fully function.
The invention of electronic gadgets, like the cell phone, electronic play games, television and the use of other such devices play havoc with your sleep cycle.
You should turn them off two hours before sleep and start winding down to your sleep mode properly.