The Heavy Health Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

Heart diseases and Motor Vehicular accidents are the two major causes of death in Trinidad and Tobago. However, the role of sleep deprivation and sleep disorders, rarely highlighted, continue to increase the likelihood of these two causes of mortality. A sleepless night now and then is not an issue that has to be dealt with seriously, but chronic sleep deprivation is hazardous. Sleep deprivation results from reduced quality of sleep or consistent lack of sleep by an individual.

Improper or inadequate sleep results in two major consequences:

  • Somnolence, having behavioral consequences that lead to an increased rate of accidents
  • Metabolic consequences, leading to an increased risk of obesity and higher insulin resistance.

Many studies explain the close relationship between the two variables. Sleep deprivation has become a common problem as we grow older nowadays because of the demanding lifestyle seeking to achieve work-life balance. As a result of this, we are unable to get adequate sleep. Sleep need indeed varies from individual to individual but, if a person does not take proper rest, health is likely to deteriorate with time in the long run. It will also dramatically lower the quality of one’s life. Sleep disorders tend to negatively impact one’s mental abilities and emotional state of mind.

Insomnia is the most common of all types of sleep disorders. Few other sleep disorders include obstructive sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, etc. Adequate sleep is mandatory to ensure good mental health and quality life. However, insufficient sleep causes adverse medical and mental dysfunction. Likewise, sleep deprivation is the consequence of sleep disorder for a longer period.

An individual who gets little sleep than expected has a higher risk of drowsy driving, resulting in fatal accidents. A high prevalence of sleep disorder, especially sleeps apnea, was found among the police officers in a study done by the US. Not only sleep disorders were common among police officers, but a high correlation was seen between sleep deprivation and depression, occupational burnout, and other severe effects. Sleep apnea played a significant role in the increased likelihood of cardiovascular diseases. These people are also more prone to administrative errors, falling asleep at late night duties, bashing the citizens out of anger, citizen complaints, high absenteeism, and safety violations. This ultimately reduces the productivity and job performance of the police officer.

All of such researches have brought a lot of awareness regarding the role of sleep disorders and sleep deprivation in increasing morbidity due to MVA and cardiovascular disease. Hence all the focus has been diverted to the health implications of sleep disorders and sleep deprivation. The concern is so prominent in the US that the Department of Health and Human Services has made adequate sleep as part of its national health policy. They are soon launching a project named ‘Healthy People 2020’ whose goal is to achieve good national health. There has been heightened awareness regarding the health implications of insufficient sleep due to such initiatives, thus drawing more attention to public safety implications. All of this has resulted in forming appropriate policies for work schedules for physicians, medical resident sleep disorders, and workers who work round the clock in the operations department that require high vigilance. There’s a possibility that sleep disorders and sleep deprivation may not be directly linked. However, their treatment plays a significant role in reducing mortality and morbidity.

Insomnia is the most common of all types of sleep disorders

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All of the researches conducted on sleep deprivation so far has empowered the general public to take this issue seriously. The family members who have lost their beloved in an accident resulting from a driver’s sleep deprivation problem have now started taking action. Establishing a non-profit organization ‘Parents Against Tired Truckers’ and advocacy for driver legislation are two major resulting initiatives of this research.

Similar initiatives have also been taken in the professional domain to deal with the resulting outcomes from sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep in a workplace can lead to a loss in employee’s productivity levels. An employee might feel sleepy due to partial or complete sleep deprivation or due to untreated sleep disorders. Hence to minimize the risk of losing an employee’s productivity, companies have initiated proactive educational programs to educate them regarding the hazardous impact of sleep deprivation or sleep disorders. Employers have also started mandatory screening to cater to sleep disorders like sleep apnea. Though the latter approach is comparatively more effective, employees would seem to worry more if they find out about their sleep disorders, ultimately impacting their productivity and employment at work. However, some companies are still reluctant to introduce such programs. There is still a dire need for additional research in the occupational domain that could identify the health implications at the individual level and the economic implications for the employees and the employer, and its ultimate effect on the society as a whole.

As a matter of public health, much prominent research speaks on general under treatment and under-diagnosis of sleep disorders among the US population concerning negative implications on one’s health. The study illustrates that employees’ lack of productivity or impairment due to sleep disorders or sleep deprivation ultimately affects the general public.

In T&T, there is a need for extensive research regarding the correlation between sleep disorders/sleep deprivation and death rate/morbidity due to CVD and MVAs.

An individual who has been asked to report to the office at 8 am, and leaves the office at 6 pm, get stuck in traffic for around 2 hours, and finally returns home at odd hours is expected to suffer from such mental problems. Thus the Nation’s health will look towards the betterment of public transport, occupational health and safety, and decentralization where sleep deprivation and sleep disorders are the main concern.

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