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Sleep deprivation, the worst health risk you might be suffering from right now

Jurian de Cocq van Delwijnen
May 28, 2019

In the current day and age, being tired in the workplace can be seen as an accolade. It’s quite rare that you would mention you had a very good night of sleep and it’s even rarer that people around you would agree theirs was great as well. However, if you mention you haven’t slept well, you’re likely to be faced with people agreeing or it can even turn into some kind of bragging competition who has slept the least. Research by the University of Georgia found that college students sleep 6 to 6.9 hours every night (1) whilst that age category on average requires 7 to 9 hours of sleep (2). If those numbers are what you’re starting your adult life with, it’s not strange to see where current sleep deprivation numbers are coming from. But where did this start and is it normal that I prefer a different bedtime than you do? It can be quite interesting to look at the historical value of people having different sleep patterns. Sure, in the modern day and age the chances you’re eaten by a wild animal in your sleep are rather slim. Thinking back to tribal times however, it makes sense that communities with genetics for different sleep patterns were more likely to survive. It’s fine if you want to go to bed early since I’ll be on the lookout for you, you’ll probably wake up early and will make sure that I won’t be eaten by animals in the morning. That’s where modern-day preferences come from, are you an early bird or a night owl? Modern society, however, has a one-size-fits-all model, just one example; school starts at the same time for everyone in the class. This can actually be quite destructive if your genetic preference is the sleeping pattern of a night owl. The statistics are pretty bad. If you’ve slept 6 hours or less, you’re 33% more likely to get into an accident. Sleep fatigue whilst driving is said to be more dangerous than driving intoxicated. If someone decides to get behind the wheel after having alcohol their reaction time is delayed or the reaction to an incoming problem may be the incorrect one, doze off behind the wheel only for a couple of seconds however and you won’t respond to an incoming problem at all. Hitting the breaks late is bad, not hitting them at all is worse. “The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life”, that’s what sleep doctor Matthew Walker is saying after numerous studies (3). Sleeping 5 hours or less increases the risk of dying by all reasons, in some cases up to 65% (4). It’s not difficult to verify if you’re underslept or not. Ask yourself the following questions; if your alarm didn’t go off, would you have slept a lot more than you did? Are you using coffee first thing in the morning just to make sure you’re awake? If you read something in the morning, are you comprehending it (or are you staring at the letters)? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions you may find yourself in a situation where you’re sleeping less than you should! Links to the sources I have referred to:

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Senior Software Engineer | Netherlands


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