World Sleep Day is celebrated this year on 17 March and is an initiative of the World Sleep Day Committee of the World Sleep Society, which is celebrated every year in some 75 countries around the world.
It aims to highlight the importance of adequate sleep for health and quality of life.
The goal of this day is to celebrate sleep and lessen the problems related to sleep deprivation in society.
This year, the theme of World Sleep Day is “Sleep Soundly, Nurture Life.” In Portugal, meetings and publicity campaigns are being held on the importance of sleep, in order to sensitize medical professionals and the general public to the effects of poor sleep on health and behaviour, as well as discussing measures which should be adopted for healthy sleep.
Sleep deprivation has become a serious problem in our society, where the pace of life is increasingly agitated, with a resulting impact on health and well-being. In addition to living at an astonishing pace, various items in everyday life also have a negative influence on our sleep pattern; television, computers, and cell phones.
We now know that people with sleep disorders are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s or psychiatric diseases.
Statistics reported by the Portuguese Sleep Association are alarming: 6 hours or less of sleep increases by 1.8 times the risk of road accidents, while sleeping less than 5 hours increases 4.5 times that risk. Lack of sleep causes more serious aviation accidents than alcohol; lack of sleep is harmful to the immune system, resulting in one being more susceptible to infectious diseases; lack of sleep disrupts the “emotional centre” of the brain, resulting in inadequate emotional responses. Most sleep disorders are preventable or treatable but less than one third of patients seek professional help. Sleep disorders are a global epidemic that threatens the health and quality of life of about 45% of the world’s population.
Three elements for good quality sleep are:
Duration – The length of sleep time needed should be enough for one to feel rested and alert the following day.
Continuity – Sleep cycles should not be interrupted.
Depth - Sleep should be deep enough to be restorative and restful.
It is urgent to change our “culture” concerning sleep. Sleep is devalued, sometimes seen as a waste of time and no proper environment is created to stimulate a good night’s sleep.
World Sleep Day is a global platform where representatives can join hands and reach their targeted audience, raising awareness of sleep disorders and our better understanding and preventability. Reducing the burden of sleep problems in society is a problem that constitutes a global epidemic and threatens health and quality of life.
A Dream: That we all should sleep well, for better health and well-being for the whole family!
Psychologist Teresa Sousa, Specialist in Sleep Patterns