Sleep is increasingly acknowledged as a critical public health threat, not least because insufficient sleep is linked to poor brain function that in turn lead industrial disasters, road accidents, medical and other occupational mistakes (Fritz 95). The difficulty in the performance of daily activities has far-reaching consequences, including increased predisposition to the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, depression, and cancer. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015), sleep insufficiency stems form a range of societal factors, including long working schedules s well as sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnia and insomnia. Such is the entent of the problem, that an estimated 50-70 million adults in the United States alone suffer from wakeful or sleep disorder, which in turn results in fewer or excessive sleep hours. This paper asserts that lack of sleeping hours is a public health threat that must be addressed urgently, because it causes increased vulnerability to impaired brain function, disease, and multiple unhealthy behaviours.
For many people, the lack of adequate hours to sleepresults form a multiplicity of factors, some of which are beyond their control. Some adults, e.g. truck drivers (and other blue collar workers) struggle to find enough time to sleep because of tight work schedules, which are set by their employers. Even if employers do not set long working hours, the hourly pay rate mamy too low, with the consequence of forcing employees to work longer just to make a decent living. The vast majority of low income earners work several jobs just to make ends meet, and quite frankly, losely a few hours of sleep is a small price to pay to see their children through college or prevent the foreclosure of their houses. Other population groups are faced by similarly difficult circumstances. College and other students, for instnce, face all important exams at certain times during their academic lives, which demands that they burn the midnight oil to ensure that they get a better mark. While some students prepare well beforehand, most students never have such a luxury, which is why as exams draw close, they need any additional minute they can find to revise. Effectively, the required number of sleep have little implications on such population groups. For many of them, more sleeping hours are desirable, and many would wish to have more time in bed, but their reality does not allow it.
Human beings need a certain number of hours, depending on their age, of sleep in order to function normally. School-going children and teens need at least 10 hours and 9 hours of sleep a day, while adults require 7-8 hours of sleep. Unfortunately, a considerable number of people fail to meet the daily sleep rewuirements, tyo the detriment of their health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015), up to 30% of adults sleep for only six hours or less, while 31% of school-going children reported getting only eight hours of sleep a day. Sleep deprivation (sleeping for less than the recommended number of hours) is associated with a range of undesirable behaviours. A Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System survey conducted in 2008 to assess the prevalence of poor sleep behaviours across 12 states in the US, found that 35.3% of the sampled population slepd for under seven hours a day, while 48% and 37% reported snoring and unintentionally falling asleep respectively. Up to 4.7% of the sampled population reported falling asleep while driving at least once in the precedng month, and this is backed up by data from the National Department of Transportation, which estimates that drowsy driving was associated with road accidents that accounted for 1550 lives and 40,000 non-fatal injuries every year (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015; Fritz, 2015).
The impaired brain functions have been scientifically proven, as evidenced by multiple empirical works. One reason for such effects is the change in the brains molecular functioning, which in turn hinders the overall body function. In a study to determine the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which a short five-hour sleep period deprivation impacts hippocampal function, Wimmer, Huang, Houslay, Brown, Vecsey, et al. (2009) used in vitro electrophysiological recordings to assess hippocampal potentiation in mice. The study helped isolate protein kinase A (PKA) and 5-and-3-cyclic AMP(cAMP) dependent types of synaptic plasticity. While this study is complex, the researchers involved argue that the results indicate that even brief sleep deprivation can disrupt the brains cognitive functioning, which in turn has adverse effects on memory, ability to concentrate and even learn. As such, lack of sleeping hours may have bad effects on the ability of children to learn (cognitive functioning) and the ability of adults to perform daily activities competently. Given the fact that only a few more hours of sleep are required to prevent such effects, price for failing to sleep is demonstratably too high to pay.
Other researchers have found that lack of adequate hours of sleep have an impact on human beings behaviours and physiological changes, from which it is difficult to recover without medical attention (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1). The brain adapts to reduced hours of sleep in different ways, but some adaptive mechanisms result in adverse effects on behavior and body. Some of the effects include sleep related disorders, neuro-behavioral deficits, weight gain (due to the tendency during long waking hours and impeding the bodys normal function), obesity, diabetes, and other disorders. As such, losing a few hours of sleep may just cause more behavioural and biological problems over which people would lose their sleep (Orzel-Gryglewska 96; Fritz 8).
While it is true that occupational and lifestyle factors may result in people sleeping for less than it is required to relax and facilitate normal body functions, it is still critical that people make certain that they get enough hours of sleep. Sleep depivation has multiple consequences on the brain and body functionining, both in children and in adults (Orzel-Gryglewska 98; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1). Even most importnatly, some of the behavioral problems that result from lack of enough sleep result in increased proneness to accident that does not only put the lives of the sleep-deprived persons at risk, but puts the lives of other bystanders at risk. Road accidents and industrial accidents for instance, affect other innocent people that lose their lives, as well as cutting short other peoples dreams and aspirations (Wimmer, Huang and Houslay 1123). Effectively, it is critical that people find time, despite their difficult circumstances, to get adequate sleep, both by avoiding the occupational and lifestyle risks that predispose them to failing to sleep for enough hours.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. efficient Sleep Is a Public Health Problem. 2015. 24 Nov 2015 <http://www.cdc.gov/features/dssleep/>.
Fritz, G. "Adolescent sleep deprivation: Science ignored." The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter 31.7 (2015): 8.
Orzel-Gryglewska, J. "Consequences of sleep deprivation." International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health 23.1 (2010).
Wimmer, M., et al. "Sleep deprivation impairs camp signalling in the hippocampus." Nature 461.7267 (2009): 1122-1125.
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