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Less Sleep Means More Problems

A week ago we gained an extra day. This past weekend, we lost an hour. The extra day was, well, an extra day. No difference really. But the loss of an hour of sleep, that has left people in a hazy fog and had them wondering why they are so tired and ready to call it a night much earlier than normal.

The impact of less sleep, even just an hour, is quite something. But eventually your body adjusts to the one hour lost to daylight savings time.

What about people who regularly struggle to get a good nights sleep? For people living on the streets and in shelters, losing an hour when the clocks spring ahead just adds to their sleep deprivation.

Joe, a man who has been homeless several times, knows how difficult it can be to get enough sleep without permanent housing.

“Where and how you sleep is often a matter of discipline when residentially challenged,” said Joe. “In a shelter, you have to be up and out by a certain time. If [you’re sleeping in] a vehicle, you have to have it moved by a certain time. You're on others’ schedules. And this is where sleep deprivation hits the hardest. It adds up.” Another man, Kevin, who is a blogger and self-proclaimed “chronic homeless man” says, "For individuals without permanent housing, sleep is difficult to come by. When there’s no way to secure your personal belongings, it’s dangerous and frightening to be as vulnerable as we are when we’re in a truly restful sleep." "As a result, sleep becomes a matter of when-you-can, where-you-can. And often, you just can’t, leading to a host of mental and physical ailments." Sleep deprivation has been linked to an increase in mental illness. Schizophrenia-like symptoms may develop, which is problematic in a population that already experiences a higher-than-average likelihood of suffering from the disease. The dangers of the elements — in colder climates, even nodding off in the winter may be a death sentence — the possibility of attack and the physical maladies that arise from perpetual dampness and dirt make achieving good sleep an impossible feat. "You check in to a homeless shelter and hope for the best, adds Kevin. "But the ‘best’ is not offered at shelters. You will be in a room with anywhere from 25 to 150 other homeless people, and not all of them will be ready to go to sleep. They will be talking, laughing or yelling, getting into fights (verbal and physical), making noises. After a couple hours, most everyone has settled in to sleep, and you'll get some sleep." "When the shelters are full, those without full-time housing take refuge in other spaces, which offer varying degrees of safety. Cars provide some measure of privacy but are far from ideal. Storage units, motels, and tent cities are other options. “Suffering from a lack of sleep, just how is a homeless person supposed to do all the things necessary for overcoming homelessness?” asks Kevin.

Adapted from Homelessness and the Impossibility of a Good Night's Sleep Hanna Brooks Olsen, The Atlantic




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