The World Association of Sleep Medicine, WASM, celebrated on March 17th the World Sleep Day with the motto “Sleep soundly, nurture life“. With this it aims to highlight the relationship between how we sleep and the state of our health.
It is well known that our education has historically given little importance to sleep. And in this sense, it has been followed by the little importance that medicine has long given to the scientific research of sleep.
However, most studies carried out over the past 30 years prove the mistakes we have made in informing about the importance of sleep.
On one hand, sleeping less hours than we need will have a decisive impact, and not precisely in a positive way, but on our well-being. This risk is multiplied when we sleep fewer hours than we should in a regular timeline. Apart from the already well-known feeling of tiredness and daytime drowsiness, issues such as irritability, anxiety and depression will occur.
Our ability to concentrate, to use executive memory and to make decisions is also affected. The risk of traffic accidents occurring increases several times. In addition, in the long run there is an increased possibility of other diseases occurring such as obesity, diabetes (our body loses the ability to properly process carbohydrates), cardiovascular problems (lack of sleep can lead to hypertension and arterial inflammation, which can affect our heart), and greater proclivity to infectious diseases. Moreover, it is not sufficiently clear yet, and therefore is still a matter of scientific controversy, if a chronic sleep deficit can also increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
To all this we need to add the effect caused by common diseases which occur during our sleep, such as Insomnia, Sleep Apnea / Hypoapnea Syndrome or Restless Legs Syndrome.
All this indicates that lack of sleep, either due to inadequate sleep management or due to the sleep diseases that can lead to it, together with sedentarism and obesity, is one of the factors that have the greatest impact on health in developed societies.
What is happening?
Citizens of Western societies, nowadays sleep every day between one and two hours less than 100 years ago. There are many complex factors which have taken to this situation. However, without the existence of electric light, which allows us to extend the duration of our daily activities, none of this would have happened.
This means we are facing again one of the many examples of how technological development, when used improperly, can be harmful.
There are many general aspects that we must improve, from the daily hours of our work day till the television’s prime time. In this way, we are dragging our children’s generation towards a sleep deficit which is inappropriate for their age, and which will probably leave a lasting effect on their health.