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Just Hit Snooze This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     When someone says the word health or healthy, what generally comes tomind? The obvious are weight, hygiene and mental stability, but what about sleep? Good sleep habitsare strongly associated with good health, but more and more industrialized nations, especiallyAmerica, see a declining number of hours spent sleeping. According to the Medical Editorial Board(MEB), the average American in 1910 slept nine hours per night. By 1975 that number had fallen to7.5, and in 2002 it dropped to 6.9. The causes of sleep deprivation are preventable, and theeffects are known to be harmful, so why do people not pull themselves out of this slump?

The reasons people do not get enough sleep is growing, but perhaps the most significant isthe invention of the light bulb. The electric light has transformed the world into a place thatnever truly sleeps. People can work and have fun and just get more done because there is no longera definite division between day and night.

Another cause is the growing industry ofentertainment. Before its rapid expansion, people had little that could be done when nature’slight faded, but now television, the internet and video games provide fun at any time of day.

The MEB says that shift workers suffer the most severe sleep losses, averaging less thanfive hours of sleep in every 24 hours. While nearly all factors resulting in the loss of sleep arepreventable, some may be beyond control (medical conditions like ADHD or asthma, medications, jetlag). Most causes, however, are a matter of choice, like caffeine and how much television onewatches.

The effects from lack of sleep are all undesirable, so why do most people continuethe cycle? Mental functioning is the first thing that suffers when a person has insufficient sleep.With judgment impaired, concentration reduced and reflexes dulled, the sleep deprived becomes oneof the “zombies” that has become so characteristic of America. While stress can be seenas a cause, it can be classified even more so as an effect. When stress, anxiety and tension build,people become short-tempered and often get depressed. Physical effects are even also clearlyvisible when one is lacking sleep! Eyes begin to lose focus, weight is gained, and endurance andspeed of reflex drop drastically. Lack of sleep even has a long-term effect on one’s health.The MEB states that lack of sleep cripples the immune system, which paves the way for manyundesired physical effects.

Three years ago Americans were averaging 6.9 hours of sleep pernight, soon, the average will likely be less than five hours. This is a vicious cycle: the lack ofsleep causes stress and anxiety, which in turn causes the person to lose sleep, and so on. So ifthe effects are so horrible and the causes preventable, why do people not do something about it?Whether it’s because of greed for wages, lust for entertainment, or lack of education on thesubject, we have got to bring an end to this vicious cycle before it’s too late to turn thesituation around.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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