We spend up to a third of our lives asleep. Although some hard-driven people may view sleep as an inconvenience that curtails productivity and leisure activities, slumber is certainly no waste of time. In fact, sleep may play a more crucial role than diet or exercise in fostering optimal health. Sleep is a natural restorative, an antidote to the damage done to our bodies during the course of the day. It allows the body to replenish its immune system, eliminate free radicals, and ward off heart disease and mood imbalances. As an essential part of the daily human cycle, sleep is a determining factor in the state of a person’s health.
A National Sleep Foundation Survey found millions of Americans are suffering from daytime sleepiness—43% of adults say that they are so sleepy during the day that it interferes with daily activity. Drowsy driving causes at least 100,000 car accidents in the U.S. each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; 62% of adults reported driving while feeling drowsy. And 60% of children under the age of 18 complained of feeling tired during the day, while 15% admitted to falling asleep at school.
The quantity and quality of sleep vary from person to person, but how well and how long one sleeps is ultimately the result of physical and psychological influences. Not only does stress, illness, and anxiety contribute to sleep disorders, but so can external circumstances, such as a noisy sleeping room, as well as disturbed biological rhythms due to night-shift work and jet lag. A shortened attention span, the loss of physical strength, and difficulty in responding to unfamiliar situations are all common symptoms of sleep disorders.