1600s English writer, Thomas Dekker once wrote “Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together”.
As years have passed, so has the way we value sleep. According to Jessa Gamble (2010), every animal and plant with more than two cells in their body have a chemical clock which helps them to adapted to the changes of daytime and night. This is our body clock. This primordial instinct is what the 21st century populations have grown to ignore over time showing that sleep is not valued.
Thanks to Edison, after the 1890s, our natural segmented sleep of 8-12pm and 2-5am (Gamble, J. 2010) has changed. With sunset no longer meaning the end of our social life, it marked the beginning of it (Randall, D 2012). It was the invention of artificial light that has largely impacted on our sleeping habits today. Chronobiologist Charlse A. Czaeisler believes that “Every time we turn on a light, we are inadvertently taking a drug that affects how we sleep”.
Scientist believes that it is not only the impact of artificial light but also social attitudes that have changed our sleeping habits. The Industrial Revolution is a milestone for the begining of these changes. With an increasing number of factories developing, staff were required to work longer hours. Therefore by the 1920s most people had converted their sleeping pattern to fit the 8 hours work- 8 hours rest regime, catering for economic and societal growth (Stearn, P. 2007).
Because of this change in our sleeping patterns, the value towards sleep has never been fully established. Making good sleep a symbol of weakness, British Prime Minister, the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher said “sleeping (was) for wimps”.
Now within the 21st century, we live in a world where ‘Money never sleeps’ with the majority of people believe that the “inconceivable reality is that nothing of (monetary) value can be extracted from sleep” (Crary, J. 2014, p 11). This shift in values has us now questioning, “Would flexible and reduced sleep time allow more personal freedom” and “chance for living life to the fullest?” (Crary, J. 2014, pg).
Unfortunatley this sleep deprived reality leaves us unable to live to our full potential. Neuroscientist Russell Forster believes that “sleep is the most important behavioural experience of life”.
This lack of sleep has led to an increase in disease, depression, weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. We also have impaired brain activity, reduced problem solving ability and we become moody and prone to accidents. According T. Hyun Hor (2009), The amount of time people sleep, with no noticeable difference in health and waking performance, ranges from 6-9 hours.
2016, National sleep foundation awareness week, Sleep.org, Viewed 27th October 2016, <https://sleepfoundation.org/SAW>
There is hope for change though, as we are now becoming more aware of the impacts sleep deprivation has, Government and independent associations are campaigning to try to alter this current lack of value. This year Sleep Awareness Week ran from the 4th to the 10th of July, raising awareness of the direct link between good quality sleep and health and lifestyle. This was accompanied by World Sleep Day on March 18th, to educate on the physical and mental benefits of quality sleep. We need to all step up and take on board this year’s slogan, “A Good night’s sleep is a reachable dream” , taking a closer look to our own sleeping patterns and making necessary changes to better ourselves.
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Crary, J. 2014, Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep, Verso, New York.
Forster, R. 2013, Why Do We Sleep?, Ted Ed, watched 10th October 2016, <https://www.ted.com/talks/russell_foster_why_do_we_sleep>.
Gamble, J. 2010, Our natural sleep cycle is nothing like it is now, Ted Ed, Viewed 10th October 2016, < https://www.ted.com/talks/jessa_gamble_how_to_sleep>.
Hyun Hor, T. 2009, Science, Vol. 325 Issue 5942, p825-826. 2p.
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Pietrangalo, A. 2014, The effects of sleep deprivation on the body, Healthline, Viewed 10th October 2016 <http://www.healthline.com/health/sleep-deprivation/effects-on-body>
Randall. D, 2012, Dreamland: Adventures of the strange science of sleep, W.W Norton and Company, America.
Sound Sleeper, 2016, Australian Guide to sleep awareness events in 2016, Sound Sleeper, viewed 10th October 2016 < http://www.soundsleeper.com.au/blog/article/australian-guide-to-sleep-awareness-events-in-2016.html>
Stearns, P. 2007, The Industrial Revolution in World History, Westview Press, Colo.
2016,Thomas Dekker ,The editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica ,viewed 10th October 2016, <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Thomas-Dekker>