People are getting less sleep in today's society than they did 80 years ago (Myers 54). Although not every person needs to sleep the standard number of 8 hours a night, everyone has a set number they need to meet in order to function optimally. About 20% of Americans are reporting that they are getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night (Davis).
Modern inventions like computers, television, and social diversions are making this hard to achieve (Myers 53). Many people have the misconception that they can skimp on sleep now and later pay off their "sleep debt" with extra long sleep sessions, however, this is an untrue statement. The human brain keeps track and remembers the amount of sleep we are getting/not getting for at least two weeks at a time (Myers 54). It will take a lot more than a single slumberous weekend to get the body back on track.
Sleep depravation has many effects, ranging from seemingly harmless to more prominent and severe. People who sleep less tend to experience higher rates of obesity, high blood pressure, memory impairment, irritability, slowed work performance, and impaired communication and concentration (Myers 54). The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl and the Exxon Valdez oil spill have been linked to insufficient sleep (Coren).
Data from a study on traffic incidents across Canada after daylight savings time, in which people lose one hour of sleep, showed a significant increase in the number of accidents than before the time change (Coren). Sleep depravation can weaken the body's immune system, which fights off viral diseases and other harmful illnesses like cancer (Myers 54).
Psychologists believe there are a few explanations on why getting sufficient sleep is important. One reason is that sleep helps our body and brain repair damaged tissue. When sleeping, the neutrons in a person's body are also at rest and focus on repairing themselves (Myers 55). Another reason is that sleeping helps people remember. During sleep, bodies bring back and reconstruct memories of daily experiences (Myers 55). It has been found that people who are trained on certain tasks and have a restful night of sleep can recall them better than others who do not (Myers 55).
Some groups of people are sleep deprived because they suffer from sleep disorders. These disorders, such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and narcolepsy (Myers 55-56), prevent individuals from receiving an adequate amount of sleep and can result in undesirable symptoms.
Coren, Stanley. "Daylight Savings Time and Traffic Accidents." New England Journal of Medicine. Massachusetts Medical Society., 04 Apr 1996. Web. 26 Jan 2012.
Davis, Jeanie Meow. "Sleep Deprivation in America." WebMD.com, n.p. 29 Nov 2011. Web. 26 Jan 2012.
Myers, David G. Psychology in Everyday Life. New York: Worth Publishers, 2009. Print.