Sleep is necessary to survive. People can only go so long without sleep before suffering some severe side effects, but many don’t take sleep as seriously as they should. An awareness week is hoping to change that.
National Sleep Awareness Week is held from March 7 to 13, 2011, and its purpose is to “promote the importance of sleep,” according to the National Sleep Foundation website.
Most adults need from seven to nine hours of sleep, but most aren’t getting that. A 2005 Sleep in America poll from the NSF found that “on average, adults in America are sleeping 6.8 hours a night on weekdays and 7.4 hours a night on weekends.” Americans seem to be putting other priorities before sleep. A 2007 Sleep in America poll that focused on women found that 52 percent were unable to sleep because they ran out of time. This lack of sleep can have a toll on daily activities. The survey found that “22 percent report that sleepiness interferes with their daily activities at least a few days a week.”
Recent studies suggest how important sleep really is. People with sleep disorders know this too well. One study found that hypersomnia, “characterised by excessive tiredness during the day,” can have a negative impact on daily life for those who suffer from it. For example, they have more medical expenses and work problems (sometimes unemployment). It’s difficult to function normally when exhaustion leads to several naps a day.
Sleep deprivation and inadequate sleep is also linked to mental illness. Some studies suggest lack of sleep can be the cause of mental illness, and others suggest it’s a side effect or symptom of a mental disorder like depression. There is no question that the road to good mental health can be blocked without enough sleep.
For people who don’t necessarily have sleep disorders or mental disorders but just deprive themselves of sleep, there can also be negative side effects. For example, one study found that sleep deprivation can lead to a “higher risk of strokes and heart attacks.” Another study shows a link between inadequate sleep and colon cancer.