Sleep has taken on the forefront of medical impetus, as researchers try to unweave its intricate interplay between brain function, the immune system, respiration, cardiovascular health, blood pressure, appetite, and mental health. Scientists are just starting to grasp the extent to which our health depends on the length and quality of rest we give our bodies, however, many experts have already come to understand that attention needs to be called to our sleep health, and the first steps are raising awareness.
A campaign designed by the National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project, a five-year partnership between the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Sleep Research Society, is part of an effort to instill the importance of sleep in everyone’s mind. The health initiative “Sleep Well, Be Well” focuses on raising awareness about the dangers of chronic sleep deprivation and untreated sleep illness.
"The urgency of our message cannot be overstated: Sleep is a necessity, not a luxury, and the pursuit of healthy sleep should be one of our top priorities," Dr. Safwan Badr, president of the AASM, said in an academy news release, according to HealthDay.
According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2013 International Bedroom Poll, the amount of sleep the average person logs each night has been steadily decreasing over the past century, with the average American sleeping six-and-a-half hours a night during a five-day work week.
Sleep Medicine has evolved over the past 25 years based with convergence of major developments in research, technology, awareness and an unhealthier population creating demand for advancements. Even through constant medical discovery sleep still remains one of the most poorly understood human biological functions. Despite these recent strides made to understand a few hormone shifts and the internal clock that ticks inside of us all.
"Sufficient sleep is one of the three pillars of a healthy lifestyle — as important as good nutrition and regular exercise. There's no avoiding it or catching up: You must sleep well to be well," Badr said.
Chronic sleep deprivation results in daytime sleepiness, slower reflexes, poor concentration, and increased risk of car accidents. Long-term problems, which pose more severe health consequences, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and weight gain. Between 50 and 70 million Americans are affected by chronic sleep disorders, according to the National Sleep Foundation, an independent nonprofit organization established in 1990 to collect and educate sleep research for the general public.
"Poor sleep has a cumulative impact on nearly every key indicator of public health, including obesity, [high blood pressure] and diabetes,” said Janet Croft, senior chronic disease epidemiologist in the CDC’s population health studies division. “Healthy sleep is a vital sign of good health."
Sleep typically takes up about a third of every day, which means an average person who lives to be 90 years old, will spend over 30 years of it asleep. Ever since Thomas Edison’s public demonstration of the light bulb in 1879, we’ve invaded the night and occupied the dark. We live in a society that deprives us of sleep, from late night television to reading lamps that could keep us studying until the early hours of the morning. The invention of the light bulb, and development of today’s technology has given people access to roughly 12 extra hours of light that were otherwise exclusively reserved for sleep.
"Millions of people have an untreated sleep illness that prevents them from achieving healthy sleep," Badr said in the news release. "Effective treatment of a sleep problem can be life-changing, helping you to be healthier and happier."