We spend up to one-third of our lives sleeping and is crucial to our overall health and well-being. Photo: FreeGreatPicture.com
We spend up to one-third of our lives sleeping and is crucial to our overall health and well-being. Photo: FreeGreatPicture.com

Why do we sleep? Quick facts about sleeping

We spend up to one-third of our lives sleeping. But why?

• Research shows that we spend up to one-third of our lives sleeping. Sleep is a basic human need, much like eating and drinking, and is crucial to our overall health and well-being.

• Sleep, like exercise and nutrition, is essential for metabolic regulation in children. There is evidence for a link between sleep duration and childhood obesity and the findings are more apparent in girls.

• Breathing regularly during sleep is critical to maintain well-being and health. Persistent interruption of the breathing function during sleep is called sleep apnea. This is a pervasive and common disorder that affects 4% of men and 2% of women.

• Sleep apnea causes daytime sleepiness and fatigue, and may lead to conditions such as hypertension, ischemic heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

• Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep is known to have a significant negative impact on our health in the long and short term. Next day effects of poor quality sleep include a negative impact on our attention span, memory recall and learning. Longer term effects are being studied, but poor sleep quality or sleep deprivation has been associated with significant health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, weakened immune systems and even some cancers.

• Lack of sleep is related to many psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety and psychosis.

• Quality sleep is crucial to ensure good health and quality of life.

The Importance of Sound, Restorative Sleep:

• Good quality and restorative sleep is essential for day-to-day functioning. Studies suggest that sleep quality rather than quantity has a greater impact on quality of life and daytime functioning.

• Healthy sleep in children will improve the child’s overall wellness and development. http://worldsleepday.org/10-commandments-for-children”>World Sleep Day has created the 10 commandments of Healthy Sleep for Children.

• Poor quality sleep has a greater negative impact on health, well-being and satisfaction with life than the quantity of sleep a person gets.

• Quality sleep is responsible for alertness, improved functioning the following day and better quality of life.

Consequences of Sleep Disorders

• Sleep disorders cause significant individual and societal burden and form a serious public health problem.

• Obstructive sleep apnea significantly impacts health and well-being. The drop in oxygen that occurs when breathing stops due to OSA puts a strain on the heart and can lead to a number of serious health conditions.

• Directly or indirectly, disrupted sleep can have a negative effect on family life and relationships by affecting a person’s mood and the way in which they are able to perform daily activities and interact socially.

Extent of the Epidemic

• 35% of people do not feel they get enough sleep, impacting both their physical and mental health.

• Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects approximately 4% of the adult population. 21 If not properly managed, OSA can have a significant impact on a person’s health and well-being.

• Restless Legs Syndrome is a common disorder and occurs in between 3-10% of the population, although the number of people affected and the severity of the condition differs between countries.

• People who have OSA stop breathing repeatedly during sleep. OSA is caused by a blockage of the upper airway. The collapse of the airway may be due to factors such as a large tongue, extra tissue or decreased muscle tone holding the airway open.

• Each breathing pause can last from 10 seconds to more than a minute and is accompanied by a drop in oxygen associated with each event. The events may occur 5 to 50 times or more each hour. This puts a strain on the heart and can lead to a number of serious health conditions (U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, NIH, 2009).

Known Consequences: Some Statistics

• A US study has estimated the annual costs of insomnia to be between $92.5 billion and $107.5 billion.17

• 71,000 people suffer injuries every year due to sleep-related accidents.16

• 1,550 people die because of sleep-related accidents.16

• 46% of individuals with frequent sleep disturbances report missing work or events, or making errors at work, compared to 15% of healthy sleepers.18

Source: Booklets of World Sleep Day. Published with permission of the organisation.