The Causes of Sleep Deprivation in America: a Nation of Walking Zombies

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When we operate a machine, we need to make sure that all of its parts are in good working order so that it will function efficiently. If we are careless, the machine will break down when we least expect it. The same can be said about the most complex of machines, the human body. When the body is sleep-deprived, it is like a car running on a half-empty gas tank. People usually don’t know when their bodies will run out of fuel- and the results can be disastrous. In fact, sleep deprivation has caused tragedy: It is the second leading cause of all car accidents in the United States. At least one-third of Americans, about 85 million people, sleep only six of the eight or nine hours that sleep specialists say is needed each night. According to James Maas, a sleep specialist, this situation has created ‘a nation of walking zombies.’ If people slept eight hours, they would be less drowsy, they would be more alert and productive at work, and they would have more creative and joyful lives. In addition, they would have fewer accidents, making the world a safer place for us all. We clearly need to sleep more and educate people about the three major causes of sleep deprivation: modern technology, insomnia and sleep apnea.

In our society, sleep deprivation has developed along with advances in technology and our longer schedules. Before the invention of the light bulb, people rose when the sun rose and went to sleep when the sun set. Today the division between daytime and nightime is less clear. Because people can work at night with the aid of artificial light, daytime is no longer the only time when people can be awake and productive. Many people lead sleepy lives because they work night shifts at places such as hospitals or factories. In the past two decades, the computer, the fax machine, and the cell phone have extended our schedules around the clock. In addition, our lives are filled with complex obligations both on the job and in the family, and sleep seems to be the...
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