|Lincoln Stoller, PhD, 2018. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
Our Lack of Sleep
There is a medical approach to sleep, and an holistic approach. Medicine approaches sleep as something that is either best left alone, or in need of intervention. The holistic approach considers sleep as an integral part of one’s state of being, something that is part of an array of relationships within your body.
The holistic approaches are either the scientific, or therapeutic. The scientific looks to understand; the therapeutic, to enhance. My work is largely therapeutic, but I read a lot of the science.
Many of the consequences of insufficient sleep are highlighted in Matthew Walker’s illuminating and up-to-date, popular-scientific review. His 2017 book is titled, Why We Sleep, Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. The extracts I’m quoting come from his penultimate chapter, “Sleep and Society.”
A Bleary New Age
100 years ago, virtually everyone slept more than six hours each night. Now, 30% of the population get less than 6 hours of sleep each night. Only 35% get more than the recommended 7 hours.
More than half the population (65%) are officially sleep-deprived. Many people attempt to “binge sleep” in order to recover their sleep deficit, but this is not successful. There is ongoing physical, mental, and cognitive damage from which you do not recover. The result is chronic poor performance, ill health, and roughly 4 years premature death.
“There remains a contrived, fortified, arrogance in many business cultures focused on the uselessness of sleep.” This is in spite of an average productivity loss per employee of $2000 each year, and up to $3,500 each for the more sleep deprived. Combining the Gross Domestic Products of the US and Canada, the total annual lost productivity is US$ 450 billion, or roughly 2.5% of the GDP.
Two of our worst industrial accidents were due to lack of sleep, and were entirely preventable. The meltdown at the Chernobyl reactor, and the grounding of the Exxon Valdez. The later was not due to a drunk captain. It was discovered to be due to the falling asleep of an exhausted 3rd Mate who was piloting at the time.
Approximately 20% of vehicle accidents have sleep deprivation as a cause, making sleep a factor in more than 100,000 crashes, resulting in 6,550 deaths and 80,000 injuries annually in the US.
“Throughout the course of their medical residence, one in five residents will make a sleepless-related medical error that causes significant, liable harm to a patient. One in twenty residents will kill a patient due to lack of sleep… Many hundreds of people are needlessly losing their lives every year because residents are not allowed to get the sleep they need… Medical errors are the third-leading cause of death among Americans after heart attacks and cancer.”
“After 22 hours without sleep, human performance is impaired to the same level as that of someone who is legally drunk.”
“If you are the patient under the knife of an attending physician who has not been allowed at least a six-hour sleep opportunity the night prior, there is a 170% increased risk of that surgeon inflicting a serious surgical error on you, such as organ damage or major hemorrhaging, relative to the procedure they would conduct when they have slept adequately.”
“More than 80% of public high schools in the US begin before 8:15AM, and almost 50% of those start before 7:20AM. School buses for a 7:20AM start time usually begin picking up kids at around 5:45AM. As a result, some children and teenagers must wake up at 5:30 to 5:15AM, or even earlier, and do so five days out of every seven, for years on end.”
“Keep in mind that 5:15 to a teenager is not the same as 5:15 to an adult. The circadian rhythm of teenagers shifts forward dramatically by one to three hours. So really, the question is, if you are an adult, could you concentrate and learn anything after having been forcefully woken up at 3:15AM, day after day after day?”
“Would you be in a cheerful mood? Would you find it easy to get along with your coworkers, and conduct yourself with grace, tolerance, respect, and a pleasant demeanor?”
“Children with longer total sleep times develop superior IQ, with brighter children having slept between 40 and 50 minutes more than those who went on to develop a lower IQ. It was found that delaying school start times by 1 hour – allowing students more sleep and better alignment with their unchangeable biological rhythms – returned an SAT profit of 212 points. That improvement will change which tier of university those students go to, potentially altering their subsequent life trajectories as a consequence.”
“Back in the 1960s, when the functions of sleep were still largely unknown, researchers selectively deprived young adults of REM sleep, and thus dreaming for a week, while allowing them non-REM sleep… By the third day participants were expressing signs of psychosis… Only then did scientists realize that REM sleep is what stands between rationality and insanity.”
“When Teton County Wyoming enacted a change in school start times from 7:35 to 8:55AM, there was an astonishing 70% reduction in traffic accidents in 16- to 18-year-old drivers. These publicly available findings… were largely swept under the rug.”
Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder
“If you make a composite of ADHD symptoms and then stripe away the ADHD label, these symptoms are nearly identical to those caused by lack of sleep. Take an under-slept child to the doctor and describe these symptoms, and what would you imagine the doctor is diagnosing them with, and medicating them for? Not deficient sleep, but ADHD.”
“As the state of chronic sleep deprivation builds over time, the child will look evermore ADHD-like in temperament, cognitively, emotionally, and academically. Those children who are fortunate enough to have the sleep disorder recognized, more often than not prove that they do not have ADHD… Based on recent surveys and clinical evaluations, we estimate that more than 50% of all children diagnosed with ADHD actually have a sleep disorder.”
“Many parents remain oblivious of the state of childhood sleep deprivation, so often undervaluing this biological necessity. Well over 70% of parents believe their children get enough sleep, when in reality, less than 25% of children between the ages of 11 and 18 obtain the necessary amount.”
“There is more irony here than meets the eye. Most people know the names of the most common ADHD medicines: Adderall and Ritalin. But few know what these drugs actually are. Adderall is amphetamine with certain salts mixed in, and Ritalin is a similar stimulant called methylphenidate.”
“Amphetamine and methylphenidate are two of the most powerful drugs we know of to prevent sleep, and keep the brain of an adult (or child) wide awake. This is the very last thing that such a child needs.”
“There are people sitting in prison cells, who have been there for decades, because they were caught selling amphetamines to minors on the street. However, we seem to have no problem at all allowing pharmaceutical companies to broadcast prime-time commercials highlight ADHD and promoting the sale of amphetamine-based drugs.”
Sleep deprivation is not taken seriously. Our competitive, insecure, 24/7, self- injuring culture accepts sleep-induced ill health – as it accepts cigarettes, alcohol, poor diet, bad behavior, and lack of exercise – as something we can make up for some other time.
But the bottom line is this: if you’re not getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, then your mind is numb, memory poor, performance flawed, intellectual and emotional IQ reduced, safety jeopardized, sexual function impaired, immune system compromised, and lifespan shortened by 5%. Do you think you’re going to “make this up” later? You’re not.
Satan Smitten by Michael, by Gustave Dure
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