Sleep used to be misunderstood. Prior to 1929, for hundreds of years, scientists had agreed that both the body and brain “shut off” during sleep. Then, the electroencephalogram was created: a machine that could measure activity of the brain during sleep! And yet even well into the 1950’s, it was commonly thought that the brain wasn’t active during sleeping hours. Today, we know that the brain can be very active while one sleeps, at times even more so asleep, than awake.

A healthy sleep pattern is necessary in order to be mentally, physically, and spiritually healthy. A healthy sleep promotes a…

  • Positive (euthymic) mood
  • Lower risk of heart disease
  • Lower incidence of obesity
  • Strong immune system

Sleep deprivation makes all of our personal challenges much more formidable. For example, if we suffer from a poor mood in the morning or social anxiety at formal gatherings, lack of sleep might make us very rude to others in the few hours after we wake, or lead us to drink a lot in order to weather small talk during a reception.

Chronic sleep deprivation puts one at risk for depression, cardiovascular issues, obesity, and sickness in general.

But that’s not all. Sleep deprivation can also cause…

  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Greater likelihood of becoming diabetic
  • Premature skin aging
  • Significant forgetfulness, even leading to Alzheimer’s disease
  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • A higher blood pressure
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Interpersonal relationship problems
  • Fatigue (of course)
  • Decreased cognition across the board
  • Great stress
  • At the extreme: delirium, hallucinations, compromised motor activities

Curious if you’re sleep-deprived?

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The National Sleep Foundation has relatively recently offered new time approximations for a healthy sleep:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

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Do any of these ring true?

  • Needing to sleep in on weekends
  • Falling sleep just a few minutes after going to bed
  • Becoming significantly fatigued while driving
  • Finding it a difficult challenge to get out of bed in the morning
  • Not being able to wake up at a reasonable time without an alarm clock
  • Needing to press the snooze button on the alarm several times before getting up
  • Feeling sleepy during meetings and lectures
  • Falling asleep while taking it easy in the evening after a day’s work
  • The strong desire to nap during the day
  • Feeling really sleepy in the afternoon

The image below walks us through some further symptoms

While the amount of needed sleep varies among people, most adults need seven to nine hours of restful sleep each night to maintain health. Some people need fewer, some more.

Thomas Edison used to say that anybody who sleeps more than five hours out of our 24-hour day, is lazy. While that’s not true, it has been found that 3% of the population need only six hours of sleep per day. As an aside, Edison was credited with many scientific discoveries that was the work of his students.

Having even a bit too little sleep can cause and perpetuate lots of issues – even an hour fewer than usual.

Here’s a general guide:

Here’s another, less detailed (and less cool-looking) one, which generally concurs – slight deviations.

When we talk of “restful” or “healthy” sleep, what do we mean? Here are several of the most salient factors:

  • Habitual sleep of seven to nine hours per 24 hours (as stated above)
  • Waking up feeling refreshed, brimming with a decent amount of energy
  • Feeling productive while awake (a brief dip is normal)
  • No complaint of snoring, restlessness, or pause in breath, from one’s partner or roommate
  • Falling asleep within about 20 minutes of going to bed
  • Not lying in bed continuously, hoping to sleep

Usually, this will involve one’s room being…

  • Quiet
  • Dark
  • Clean
  • Aired-out
  • Cool, but not cold
  • Physically comfortable

Find out more in the National Sleep Foundation‘s Sleep in America Poll!

Sleep disorders are also associated with other mental illnesses, such as autism, schizophrenia, anxiety, major depression, and bipolar disorder. In some cases, sleep worsens the symptoms of these mental disorders, and in others, these mental disorders themselves are more to blame for lack of sleep. It could go either way.

Regardless, the cost to society is substantial. At its peak, in 2013, the GDP of Australia was equivalent to 163.9 billion dollars in US currency.

.1+1.65+4.12+1.13+2.68+.62=10.3 billion US dollars. That’s almost 1/16 of the 2013 Australian GDP. If diagnosis and treatment efforts increased, and the cost were to be quadruple what current diagnosis and treatment operations cost, that would be just under two and a half billion, at 2.48 billion US dollars, or more than a quarter less than current funds diverted to the maintenance of negative circumstances related to sleep disorders; that’s not even counting GDP increase due to more able-bodied workers working more productively, and fewer vehicles to repair or dispose of.

In the United States, 40 million people have long-term sleep disorders, while 20 million more occasionally experience sleep issues. This costs 16 billion dollars per year, not including lost productivity.

It will be said here that sleep medication should definitely be there for people who need it, but that many such medications can open one up for avoidable risks, and that if there’s any way to sleep without a chemical making you, please choose the more natural option. There are many ways to throw the odds in your favor, when it comes to sleeping a healthful amount…

Nothing works super well for everyone. Such is also a tenant of recovering emotional wellness in general. Explore a little, try new things out, and chances are you’ll come across something both effective and natural.

Here is the complete list of all officially recognized sleep disorders. There are over 70. Below are the major categories.

  1. Lack of sleep (Hyposomias)
    1. Insomnia: when one doesn’t get restful sleep, has trouble falling asleep, or has issues staying asleep long enough to be well-rested
      1. Very common
    2. Sleep-related movement disorders
      1. Can make getting to sleep very difficult
  2. Too much sleep (Hypersomnias)
    1. Central hypersomnolence disorders: one sleeps longer than normal and/or takes a lot of naps during the day
      1. Fatigue without an obvious cause
      2. Narcolepsy: bouts of involuntary sleep during daytime, and of which there are four kinds
  3. Disturbances in sleep (Sleep disturbance disorders)
    1. Sleep-related breathing disorders happen when one doesn’t breath enough oxygen during the night, and which results in insomnia or fatigue
      1. Either caused by lack of breathing command, or physical blockage
    2. Circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders occur when one feels the need to sleep in daylight, and be conscious and active during the night
      1. Jet-lag may cause this
    3. Parasomnia: one engages in unintentional movement while asleep
      1. Can be painful
      2. Can be quite dangerous
  4. Substance-induced sleep disorders due to intoxication or withdrawal from recreational drug use
    1. Can take the form of lacking sleep, sleeping too much, or sleep disturbance
    2. People who stay up for a week or longer due to stimulant intoxication (e.g. amphetamine)
    3. People who don’t sleep for a week or longer due to depressant withdrawal (e.g. oxycodone)
    4. People who experience intensive nightmares due to benzodiazepine withdrawal (e.g. temazepam)

Losing sleep affects us across the entire spectrum of our being. It can cause other serious issues, and can be caused by other serious issues.

Sources: http://www.tradingeconomics.com/australia/gdp, Abnormal Psychology: An Integrative Approach, Encyclopedia of the Human Brain, http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu, https://www.helpguide.org, https://sleepfoundation.org