Britain needs to wake up to its sleep problem
Date Posted : Monday, May 19th, 2014
Over the last week or two there’s been a great deal of attention from the nation’s media on the problem of disturbed sleep – even the lack of sleep altogether.
Scientists from Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Manchester and Surrey universities warn collectively that today’s society has become ‘arrogant’ and ignores the fact that cutting sleep leads to health problems. They go on to say jointly that people, and governments, need to take the problem seriously. Cancer, heart disease, type-2 diabetes, infections and obesity amongst many other things have all been linked to reduced sleep caused by a number of key factors – snoring being one of them.
Our body clock drives huge changes in the human body. It alters alertness, mood, physical strength and even the risk of stroke and heart attack in its daily rhythm. It stems from our 4 billion year evolutionary past when we were active in the day and then resting at night.
Scientists warn that modern life and 24-hour society mean many people are now “living against” their body clocks with damaging consequences for their health and well-being. They have concluded that we’re getting between one and two hours less sleep a night than 60 years ago and are not trying to put this right.
This is an acute problem in teenagers and they had found some who sleep by popping their parent’s sleeping tablets in the evening and then downing three Red Bulls the following morning. The evidence suggests modern technology is now keeping all us up later into the night and cutting our sleep – not just our children and teenagers.
The ‘Blue Light’ problem
Prof Charles Czeisler, from Harvard University, said energy efficient light bulbs, as well as smartphones, tablets and computers had high levels of light in the blue end of the spectrum which is “right in the sweet spot” for disrupting the body clock.
In addition, opticians say people are so addicted to smartphones they may be increasing their risk of eye damage. They are warning that overuse of phones and other devices like computers, tablets, and flat screen TVs can lead to long-term damage.
6th Form students to start classes in the afternoon.
Some results are extraordinary, and in one case, Sixth Formers at a private school in Surrey are to begin their lessons in the afternoons to allow them to sleep later in the mornings. The pioneering decision will mean that A-level classes will finish at 19:00. Teenagers have a biological disposition “to going to bed late and struggling to get up early”, the school said.
Our 24-hour society now mean that many people are now “living against” their body clocks with damaging consequences for their health and wellbeing. One of the main causes of sleep loss, or poor quality sleep, is snoring – a problem that may be caused by numerous things; being overweight, lack of exercise, natural ageing, smoking, excess alcohol in the evenings, and numerous other lifestyle factors. Shift work can increase the problem along with poor sleep regimes as we’re finding amongst many social groups today.
It’s easily put right. The solution is in your hands, or in this case your mouth, when you acquire an oral appliance to wear at night. It’s a simple mouthpiece like a sports guard that will ensure healthy, restful and more satisfying sleep.
By John Redfern