The problem of sleep deprivation is not new and yet more and more people are becoming victims of the consequences that of sleep deprivation. More and more people are sleeping less each day without realizing the very harmful effects that not sleeping on time and at regular intervals for the required time can have on our physical as well as mental health (Sleepnet; Ledoux). Technological advancements and the fast pace of the industrial and information revolution has created spots in which we find 24-hours a day open supermarkets, banks, restaurants, hotels, airports, train and bus terminals and a myriad of other businesses and services that are accessible around the clock. Workers such as policemen, doctors, nurses, firemen, and so many more are people who are required to work rotating shifts that span all of the 24 hours in a day. Also, we find that many people are starting to work from home and they do not have regular time table to follow and work whenever there is work available for them. Others just work around the clock to make their ends meet because living is getting more and more expensive especially if you have more than one mouth to feed. This trend has been followed for quite a while now and it is being found that more and more people are trading their sleeping time in doing other activities. It has been estimated that in the past one hundred years, the average person's average nightly sleeping time has been reduced by two hour (Essortment).
So what is the problem, one might wonder. Is it not better that humans stay up more and thus are able to be more productive and better for the economy? Well, that is so in a way, but as with all other things, it also comes with a very big cost. The human body needs a certain amount of sleep every day for it to function effectively. If a person does not sleep over long periods of time, many important parts of the brain stop operating properly and start to affect such bodily functions as body temperature, hormone levels, heart rate and other vital body functions (Sleep Deprivation). Prolonged loss of sleep can cause these functions to become permanently impaired and can also affect a person's memory and mood. A person's judgment can be impaired and he or she might become a hazard for him or herself as they drive their car home, or operate dangerous machinery.
This sleep deprivation is not a new idea in science; people have had sleep-related problems for a long time now, but it has only been recently that the affects of sleep deprivation have been studied and understood. Stress can cause people sleeplessness, and so can illnesses or some other distraction. There are also some specific diseases that are related to sleep disorders and they can also affect a person's sleeping pattern, such as chronic insomnia, sleep apnea - a condition where breathing stops repeatedly during the night, sometimes hundreds of times; it occurs when muscles at the back of the throat become overly relaxed and block the airway - narcolepsy - a condition where a person dozes off repeatedly during the day, and sleepwalking, sleep talking and sleep terrors - all are conditions known as parasomnias and those prone to them usually never remember any of the nightly excursions (Essortment; NASD)
Aside from these sleep disorders, which are very curable, sleep deprivation also has some effects on the cognitive functioning of the brain. Many studies have been conducted on this subject and this paper shall review the literature that is concerned with the topic of sleep deprivation, sleeping disorders, and their effects on the human brain and its cognitive, and otherwise, functioning.
It is important for people to realize that sleep deprivation is a growing problem and that it can pose serious medical and health problems. Many people tend to take this lightly and not pay much attention to how much they are sleeping. Many researches are being conducted to look further into the causes and consequences of sleep deprivation and it is important that the public be aware of the threats that it can pose for an average person.
Essortment. “Information on Sleep Deprivation.” Online, http://ky.essortment.com/sleepdeprivatio_rloc.htm
Ledoux, Sarah, “The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Brain and Behavior,” Serendip, 2008. Available online: http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1690
NASD, “Sleep Deprivation: Causes and Consequences,” NASD Review, 2002. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/nasd/docs/d000701-d000800/d000705/d000705.html
Sleep Deprivation, “The Effects of Sleep Deprivation,” Online, 2008, http://www.sleep-deprivation.com/articles/effects-of-sleep-deprivation/
Sleepnet, “Sleep Deprivation Links and Information,” Sleepnet.com, 2006, Available online: http://www.sleepnet.com/depriv.htm