The US is suffering from a sleep-loss epidemic. These hours of lost sleep are causing a host of potentially fatal diseases (e.g. hyper tension, type II diabetes, and weight gain to name a few). In an interview with the Guardian, Professor Matthew Walker, director of the Centre for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, said that sleep deprivation affected “every aspect of our biology” and was widespread in modern society.
According to a recent Ted Talk by Vicki Culpin the effects of sleep not only can be considered a carcinogen in shift workers; but is also costs nations billions of dollars (she claimed nearly 2% of the GNP for Britain). Yet the sleep epidemic is not being addressed in our country or taken seriously by individuals or employers. Many people miss sleep for exercise, to work longer hours, to catch up on the news, addiction to iphones or to watch their favorite show. Sometimes a desire to get a good night’s sleep is even stigmatized as a sign of laziness.
One of the biggest issues that is causing this problem is screen time: television, computer, ipads, smart phones, etc. In addition, bright lights, stressful commutes, the blurring of the line between work and personal time, and a host of other aspects of modern life have contributed to sleep deprivation, which is defined as less than seven hours a night.
Lack of sleep has been linked to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity and poor mental health among other health problems. In short, a lack of sleep is killing us. Professor Walker, who is originally from Liverpool, said: “No aspect of our biology is left unscathed by sleep deprivation”. It’s time to take note of this issue and address it. Are you ensuring that you and your family are getting the right amount of sleep? It’s time to start.