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Published:August 18th, 2011 13:45 EST
Is Sleep Deprivation The Cause of America's Financial Crisis, Political and Cultural Woes?

Is Sleep Deprivation The Cause of America's Financial Crisis, Political and Cultural Woes?

By Donna Cavanagh

When Hamlet said, "To Sleep, perchance to Dream", he was going through emotional turmoil which prevented him from getting a good night`s rest. Even though, we might not have the same anxiety factors today that royalty living in Elizabethan Europe experienced, modern society does have its own stressors which prevent us from falling asleep and staying asleep at night. In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 30 percent of adults, more women than men, suffer from insomnia. In the United States alone, approximately 10 million people use some type of sleep aid.     

We have a serious sleeping problem, but it is one of the most ignored health issues. Despite the fact that at least 40 million Americans report having sleep deprivation, more than 60 percent have never been asked about their sleep habits by their physicians and fewer than 20 percent have brought up the topic themselves. While many people shrug off the importance of sleep, it is becoming a dangerous health concern The Institute of Medicine estimates that hundreds of billions of dollars are spent annually on medical costs that are directly related to sleep disorders. For employers, this means that they spend about $3,000 more in health care costs for employees with sleep problems.

And if these stats don`t paint a picture of how important sleep is then pay attention to this one: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 100,000 vehicle accidents occur annually due to drowsy driving, and an estimated 1,500 people die in these collisions each year--unnecessary deaths that could be prevented with adequate sleep.  A British pilot union survey found that one out of five pilots fall asleep in the cockpit, and reports of traffic controllers nodding off have also added fuel to the insomnia issue. Sleep is vital to life and holds many benefits. It bolsters the immune system and keeps our cognitive functions and memory sharp. Adequate rest also helps to ward off diabetes, depression, hypertension and obesity.  

So, if we know the importance of sleep, why are we not getting enough? Is stress the culprit? While stress and anxiety do play important roles in our sleeplessness, our lifestyle is also to blame.  According to a study conducted as part of a National Sleep Foundation poll released in March of 2011, many of us thwart our ability to sleep because of our reliance on our electronic gadgets.  Ninety-five percent of the 1,508 people surveyed reported using some type of electronic device within an hour of bedtime at least a few nights a week or participated in some kind of stimulating activity.  Thirty-three percent regularly used a computer; and 90 percent watched TV. Technology keeps us connected all night long. Some surveys, according to Psychology Today, show that the majority of adults are checking their emails before sleep.  Industrial surveys indicated that 25 to 35 percent of adults will answer text messages throughout the night and that number rises dramatically for teens.  

TV, cell phones, and laptops can wreak havoc on your body`s ability to sleep.  According to researchers, those who stare at light-emitting screens an hour before going to bed will experience a decrease in the amount of melatonin released into the body which regulates the natural sleep cycles. The devices also emit an electro-smog from electromagnetic fields or EMF which rob the body of Melatonin. Other contributors to sleepless nights are the lights and alert sounds that interfere with sleep patterns.   

There are many products on the market that promise to shield the body from EMFs, but common sense is probably our best ally.  Researchers are well aware that we are not going to give up our electronic toys but they do suggest that we keep mobile phones and other radiation-emitting devices away from our beds at night. Also, make sleep a priority and develop a sleep routine. Take a warm bath or have a bed-time snack avoiding alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods. Eliminate noise in your "sleep zone" which might require a set of earplugs or turning off gadgets.  Pamper yourself with comfortable bedding and a good mattress.  Make sleep as important as any activity you take on during the day and you might find yourself healthier, your life more enjoyable and your addiction to technology tamed.  Yes, to "sleep perchance to dream" we all deserve to have that dream undisturbed.,