05/25/2015 BY SALIM SURANI

Woman sleeping on the wheel in her car

Snails can sleep for three years, and dolphins never sleep. What about us?

By: Dr. Salim Surani

Sleep, dream, siesta, snooze, tranquility, downtime, break, quietude and quiescence have become a second priority in this technology-driven society. The research and data have shown that humans are the only mammals who willingly delay sleep. Most people can survive for up to two months without eating, but only 11 days without sleeping.

Even the marginal sleep they get is distracted by phone calls, text messages, Facebook messages and tweets. The technologies have imprisoned the developed society, and people feel threatened to be disconnected.

Though not stigmatized, caffeine is the most popular drug worldwide. People consume caffeine in the form of coffee, tea, cocoa and energy drinks that can help block the adenosine receptor in brain to keep them up.

Before the advent of electric bulb by Thomas Edison in 1879, the work schedule had been centered on human circadian rhythm with people working in the daytime and resting at nighttime. But following the Industrial Revolution, we have come to live in a 24-hour, technologically driven society.

Sleep deprivation has been linked to several major accidents, including the Exxon Valdez oil spin and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, as well as accidents related to drowsy driving. Drowsy driving is responsible for 76,000 to 100,000 crashes per year in the United States – which is considered to be an underestimation, as drivers’ inattention may be due to sleep deprivation. One of the studies has shown that almost 55 percent of drivers have driven while sleepy in a year, and 23 percent have dosed off while driving at some point in their life.

Besides causing accidents and industrial hazards, sleep deprivation also has severe health consequences. For example, it can cause:

• An increase in blood pressure
• A higher risk of heart attack, stroke, depression, gastrointestinal disturbances, mood disturbances and falls in the elderly
• A greater likelihood of poor school performance among children

Studies have also shown that sleeping less than seven hours every night can result in weight gain and may reduce your life expectancy.
In the United States, 50 million adults have difficulty with sleep, and only one-fifth of them discuss their problems with physicians. Sleep need is variable throughout life.

Studies have shown that only 15 percent of teens report sleeping eight-and-a-half hours on school nights. This can impair their ability to concentrate, potentially bringing about a decline in their grades, health issues, inattention and behavior challenges.

Technological advances like social media outlets have been major challenges contributing to the compromising of teen sleep. Moreover, adults and older folks are also getting hooked to social media and compromising their sleep, thus making the United States one of the most sleep-deprived nations in the world.

There are some basic sleep hygiene principles that have been helpful in combating sleep issues. It is important that individuals try to implement one or two pointers at any given time, rather than implementing all of them at the same time.

Healthy sleep tips
• Avoid daytime naps.
• Avoid stimulants like caffeine, tee and energy drinks, especially after noontime.
• Avoid alcohol within four to six hours of bedtime, as alcohol helps you go to sleep, but then causes fragmentation throughout the night.
• Establish regular times for going to bed and waking up.
• Avoid watching TV or working on computers while in bed.
• Exercise regularly, but avoid vigorous exercise three to four hours prior to bedtime.
• Keep the room dark and quiet while you are sleeping.
• Avoid large meals before bedtime; however, eating a light snack may help promote sleep.
• Avoid extremes of temperature in the bedroom.
• Ensure that you have a good mattress.
• Avoid smoking, as nicotine is a stimulant that may disturb your sleep.

Average Sleep Requirement

14-17 hours/day

12-14 hours/day

11-14 hours/day

Pre-school children
10-13 hours/day

School-age children
9-11 hours/day

8-10 hours/day

7-9 hours/day

Older Adults
7-8 hours/day

Sleep, in essence, is an integral part of adequate functioning of human body. For details about iConquer: Sleep Wisely, to combat teen sleep and to view/download the 3-D animated movie for free, please visit www.itsyourlifefoundation.org.

Salim Surani, M.D., has written the first complete book on sleep deprivation risks, “Sleep & Safety,” as well as several manuscripts that have been published in major journals worldwide.