Healthy sleep habits are essential for ensuring good health. Our body needs them to recover from daily stress and activity.
It is highly important to be aware of the change of paradigm in sleep and the current understanding of the same in Western society. The social guidelines for daily life and sleep have changed significantly over the last 20 years, with the quantity of time we devote to sleeping having been reduced by 2 hours a day.
This has a direct bearing on our health and, consequently, on our performance and emotional state, making healthy sleep an issue of general interest for society as a whole.
Although there are a number of studies which demonstrate the link between sleeping well and improved health, there is currently no social perception regarding this issue. Sleeping little continues to be erroneously associated with a higher productive and working capacity.
Sleep disorders have serious consequences in both childhood and adulthood, such as a tendency towards obesity in both stages.
More specifically, a reduction in the sleeping hours of children—whether through the reluctance to sleep in order to carry on playing, through the inability to sleep without the presence of the parents, or owing to a fear of the dark—increases the likelihood of suffering from diurnal problems, such as diminished concentration and memory, hyperactivity, anxiety, and even growth and learning deficit, among others.
In adolescence, it has also been observed that the ingestion of stimulant drinks—to voluntarily modify our sleeping habits in order, for example, to play video games—can have adverse effects on academic results.
Using mobile devices late at night may also be conducive to the appearance of [...]. The sleep of adolescents, which should have a duration of around 9-10 hours, is characterised by sleep deprivation.
By adulthood, the reduction in sleep has a bearing on the both the physical and psychological spheres and in the work and social environments.
In this regard, long working days, often lasting until 8 or 9 o'clock in the evening, reduce the company's productivity, but also people's engagement in civic and leisure activities. Prime time television is adapted to these schedules, with personal time overlapping with rest time, and consequently the sleeping hours are reduced.
The phenomenon of being able to sleep with sufficient quantity and quality should not be analysed separately from the social determinants of health, but seen as a complex problem with consequences in a number of settings, such as, for example, climate change and child obesity.
A number of studies have documented the relationship between poor sleeping habits and economic impact through spending on medicines and the use of healthcare services.
Moreover, there is clear evidence that drowsiness, irrespective of its cause, is a key risk factor in traffic accidents, one of the primary causes of death in individuals aged between 5 and 50. A study conducted in 19 European Union countries determined that 7% of drivers had fallen asleep at least once the wheel, resulting in 3.6% of fatal accidents and 13.2% of instances of hospital treatment.
In view of this situation, it is important to conduct an overall evaluation of the problems resulting from sleep disorders. Lines of work will need to be established to encourage the improvement of people's sleep habits, which will have a positive impact on the population and its institutions.