Why we sleep less and less?

Bad habits that alter the physiological mechanisms of sleep

The rampant lack of sleep in the population of developed Countries is determined by bad habits, changes in physiological mechanisms that induce sleep, other concomitant diseases, or several factors at the same time. It has been widely demonstrated by scientific literature that sleep disorders can have significant adverse effects on mood, longevity and productivity, as well as contributing to the development or aggravation of other pathological conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, depression and cancer. According to a prospective study of the evolution of sleep disorders by Lisa Matricciani, a researcher at the University of South Australia in Adelaide, from 1905 to 2008 the world population has progressively reduced from year to year the time devoted to sleep over 24 hours.

From a general medical point of view the problem, explains the New Yorker, in essence it is not that we get up too early but that wego to sleep too late. In many cases the reason why we have trouble getting to sleep has a genetic component. Some, for example, find themselves “out of step” with the rest times of most people due to a circadian rhythm disorder, which regulates sleep-wake cycles: this disorder in turn is often caused by insufficient production of melatonin, the hormone that causes us to fall asleep, or the absence of specific receptors.

The answer has more to do with our “sleep hygiene” habits, explains the New Yorker. Substances such as nicotine, caffeine and alcohol, for example, have an even more negative effect on the quantity and quality of our sleep as they are taken near the time of going to sleep. We fall asleep with more difficulty, moreover, when we eat too much and/or too late, and also when we do not regularly exercise.

But one of the most determining factors in the spread of sleep disorders and poor sleep hygiene practices in general is the prolonged and increasing presence of artificial light during the night.

The problem is that our natural mechanism of preparing for the future is constantly being “deceived” by the blue (or short-wave) light emissions produced by electronic devices – television, Smartphones, tablets – which we often use until late at night and which our circadian rhythm interprets as daylight. Basically, it’s like we’re constantly postponing the signal that tells our brain that it’s time to go to sleep, with the result that we get extra energy rather than producing melatonin.


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