Attitudes - When I was in high school, one teacher asked students to write down their hourly schedule and admonished students who slept eight or nine hours a night, saying that it was time wasted when they could be employed in a "constructive" pursuit. North Americans have idealized the doctor who works around the clock, the teacher, business person, politician, who juggles many duties with little sleep. A Harvard study of Fatigue Science "clearly shows this is foolish, and that significant fatigue is the equivalent of being drunk on alcohol."(1) A document prepared for Connecticut teachers reports: "Approximately 100,000 automobile crashes each year result from drivers who are "asleep at the wheel....sleepiness can cause difficulties with learning, memory, thinking, and feelings, which may lead to poor school and work performance and difficulty with relationships. Furthermore, problem sleepiness leads to errors and accidents in the workplace." (2) Because of lack of certain hormones during sleep, humans are subject to obesity, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and diabetes. (2a) Fatigue is currently recognized as a health issue.
Addressing the problem of fatigue - Patrick Byrne of Vancouver, Canada, observed that sports teams have terrible schedules. They often perform one night, fly to another city and perform the following day. In 2007, he founded Fatigue Science, a company that studies fatigue and offers solutions. Currently, sports teams, military institutions, mining companies and transportation agencies are using this service. Work schedules and travel management can be altered to better jive with a worker's circadian rhythms, people with sleep problems are identified and all users learn good sleep habits. (3) Participants wear Readibands, wrist devices which assess the quality and quantity of sleep and record a score. A score above 90 out of 100 means the person has a normal reaction time. But a score of 70 is equivalent to being drunk--that reaction time matches the reaction time of a rested person with a blood alcohol level of 0.08. (1) (4) In 2012, a Harvard study, published in Journal Surgery from the American Medical Association, used Readibands to investigate orthopedic surgical residents. "Typically the doctors slept 5.3 hours. At work, the study found residents were 'fatigued' half of the time, and 'impaired' one-quarter of the time. Because of this the 'risk of medical error' jumped 22 per cent." (1)
Childhood conditions that deprive the child of a restful sleep - You are not alone if your child has one of the following problems: bruxism (teeth grinding) - may be due to a deficiency, your dentist can advise; enuresis (bedwetting) - usually due to immaturity, but could be caused by stress or illness; sleepwalking, apnea, snoring, restless legs, narcolepsy (excess sleep) - require professional advice; nightmares - usually result from stress or frightening movies. Some of these conditions have a hereditary component, but can be controlled or corrected. Pediatric health care-givers are well versed to offer help. (6)
The relationship between age and sleep patterns - Sleep patterns change throughout life. Newborns sleep about 16-18 hours per day, five-year-olds sleep about 10-12 hours and adults sleep 7- 8 hours. The most significant change relates to the amount of sleep spent in the deepest stages of sleep, stages 3 and 4 of the cycle. For adolescents about 40 percent of deep sleep time is lost. Changes include a later secretion of melatonin signaling that it's time to sleep, and the signal to get up comes later in the morning. If students get less than 8.5 hours of sleep they become sleep deprived. (2) A study concluded that when adolescents were deprived of REM sleep (stage 5), they could not remember material that was learned just before sleeping; however, those who were not deprived of REM sleep could remember. (7) Currently there is movement for schools to begin the school day later. U.S. studies show when start times were changed from around 7:30 to 8:30, "tardiness and visits to the school nurse decreased, grades and moods improved and there was a decrease in car accidents among the student drivers." (8) During the last few years in Canada some high schools in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ontario, have introduced late start times. Studies by researchers from Carleton University concluded that later start times for the secondary grades show improvement regarding "sleep-debt, punctuality, attendance, behavior, sociability and continuous enrolment, particularly for the at-risk student population." (9) In 2009, Eastern Commerce Collegiate Institute in Toronto instituted a 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. day. Principal Jennifer Chan reports improved health among her students. "They are 2.5 times more likely than the students in the (control) school, to get nine hours sleep, which is the optimal time." The majority of students in the school like this schedule. Those who have reservations cite difficulty finding part-time work, scheduling sports and enrichment activities, problems at home when siblings are on different school schedules, and school boards cite a lack of money to bus students if start times vary within the district. (10)
When someone suffers from chronic sleep deprivation because of sleep apnea, it can cause you to be sleepy during the day, slow motor reflexes, poor concentration, and increase your risk of having accidents. Sleep apnea is also known to lead to major health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and weight gain.