Sleep loss becoming major public danger

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

sleep deprivation
Light from TVs and smartphones messes with our biological clock.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sleep deprivation (loss) has become a widespread public problem. That is, lack of quality snooze time is affecting everyone’s health, and now researchers from top universities claim that our irresponsible lack of sleep is just downright foolish.

Why is this a public concern? For one, missing out on those refreshing z’s is linked with increased risk for developing cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and infections. Besides affecting our personal health, lack of sleep decreases our focus, ability to produce quality work, and our memory. Also, sleep deprivation increases the chances of getting into car crashes, industrial accidents, and hurting other people as a result! Despite all these serious risks, people are getting about 2 hours less sleep than everyone was just 60 years ago.

Missing a few hours every night is bad because our bodies run on a 24-hour cycle called a circadian rhythm. We use this “biological clock” to keep a bunch of different chemicals in check and regulate basic functions. Missing sleep disrupts this cycle and tinkers with the delicate balance our bodies work so hard to maintain. Contributing factors such as light from smartphones and laptop screens also rewires our biological clock, so late night tweeting and TV watching can actually be dangerous for our health.

This clock didn’t start recently either; our ancestors spent the better part of, you know, 4 billion years working with this circadian rhythm, which is why researchers are so concerned with the way our sleep habits are developing. Russell Foster, a researcher from the University of Oxford says, “We are the supremely arrogant species; we feel we can abandon four billion years of evolution and ignore the fact that we have evolved under a light-dark cycle.”

It’s getting so bad, researchers are urging governments to take this matter head on.

Featured image courtesy of jazbeck on Flickr. Image of alarm clock eye courtesy of Lee Nachtigal on Flickr.