The gap between the amount of sleep we get and the amount of sleep we need seems to be widening. When we are infants, we somehow managed to get the 16 hours of sleep our bodies required for development, and as we got older, first as restive teenagers and young adults with more important things to do after the sun goes down than to spend it dreaming, even though our bodies ask for 9 hours, and then later on in life where getting sleep is now viewed as a challenge, even though we have a slower social life and require slightly more sleep than when we were younger to feel rested. Over half of all older adults report frequent and even chronic inability to sleep. Insomnia and sleep apnea are much more pronounced in older populations, and the devastating effects of both are felt more by this group and their ability to recover from sleep debt much slower and less complete.
Lacking in adequate sleep is not just an inconvenience or minor irritant, it can also be the sign of a serious health problem, or the cause of one if left unchecked. If our bodies do not get enough rest, several of our body’s systems can become imbalances, and the immediate effects of sleep deprivation on motor skill ability and reaction times can take an otherwise safe and sane individual and turn them into a 2 ton loaded gun if put behind the wheel of an automobile in that state. Approximately 2000 people are killed every year in sleep related car accidents, and numerous other work related injuries and health problems can be associated with lack of sleep as well.
Without the ability to rest and reset all of its switches, the body will soon begin to shut down, efficiency is lost, and mental alertness can eventually come to a halt. The average adult male needs approximately 7-10 hours of sleep each and every day for optimal performance. While this is usually easily accommodated, certain sleeping disorders as well as a stressful lifestyle, and other factors such as alcoholism or drug abuse can interrupt sleeping patterns or interfere with the proper chemical reactions that take place in the brain to allow healthy rest. Certain medications can also interfere with sleep and either produce drowsiness or insomnia when taken. Diet can also play a factor. Getting your nightly rest is crucial to your health and safe physical and mental activity.