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Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem
paigns for all age groups as well as a sustained effort to integratesleep-related content into curricula of undergraduate health scienceprograms all the way through continuing education programs forhealth professionals.
CHALLENGES FACING INDIVIDUALS WITH SLEEP DISORDERS
Sleep is often viewed by the general public as a “perceptual hole in time”—during which nothing productive occurs (Dement and Vaughn, 1999). One only has to examine common colloquialisms such as “don’t get caught napping,” “if you snooze you loose,” or “time is money” to gain a sense of the prevailing attitude that sleep is either optional, a luxury, or unimportant. In fact, being able to “get by on 4 hours of sleep” (and thus being able to increase productivity) is often considered an enviable trait.
Daily sleeping and waking patterns are no longer driven by the light and dark cycle but, rather, by work schedules, economic interests, and increasing globalization. Unfortunately, the resulting “24/7” schedules are typically not optimal in terms of filling physiological requirements for sleep. Thus, daytime sleepiness and its consequences are becoming increasingly common problems affecting up to 15 percent of the population (Punjabi et al., 2003). For some, sleep disruption and constant sleepiness are often deemed an inevitable part of their social roles as spouses, workers, caregivers, and so on. Although improving diet and exercise as a part of a healthy lifestyle program is acceptable, sleep continues to be considered an expendable luxury (Dzaja et al., 2005). Thus, performance and social responsibilities may often take precedence over sleep, largely because of multiple role demands and expectations.
Stigma is a problem that often complicates chronic illness. Acceptable standards for roles and activities are socially determined, and individuals who deviate from these expectations because of chronic illness are often labeled as “different” and are thus stigmatized (Falvo, 2005). Similarly, individuals with certain sleep disorders, which are often chronic in nature, may also be stigmatized because of the inability to fulfill role expectations. An additional factor that may underlie this stigma is that sleep is typically misperceived as an “asocial” activity. However, sleep is actually a very important type of social interaction—an activity that is negotiated with self, family, friends, employers, lawmakers, fellow drivers on the road, and so on (Meadows, 2005). When, where, and how sleep occurs is an extremely important sociocultural matter (Taylor, 1993; Williams, 2002), and there can be considerable negative sociocultural consequences when the sleep behavior, either intentionally or unintentionally, is unacceptable (Mehlman,