We often take for granted the importance of a good night's sleep. After a long day, we look forward to sinking into our comfortable beds, closing our eyes, and drifting off into a peaceful slumber. But did you know that chronic sleep insufficiency can have serious consequences for your health? In fact, it's more than just a matter of comfort; beds are healthcare – full stop. Which is why Wings continues to make sure that everyone moving into housing after homelessness has access to a bed.
The Link Between Sleep and Cardiovascular Health
One of the most concerning health issues associated with chronic sleep insufficiency is its contribution to the development of cardiovascular disease and related metabolic conditions. A study published in the Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy Journal in January 2020 highlighted this alarming connection. It revealed that inadequate sleep is not just a minor inconvenience but a potential precursor to life-threatening ailments.
The study found that individuals who consistently experience sleep deprivation are at a significantly higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease and hypertension. Lack of restorative sleep can also lead to metabolic conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, which is the leading cause of kidney failure. The connection between sleep and metabolic health is undeniable, and it's a reminder that our beds play a crucial role in maintaining overall well-being.
The Ripple Effect on Mental Health and Memory
Sleep is not only essential for physical health but also for mental well-being. Harvard Medical School's 2009 publication titled "Sleep & Mental Health" delved into this aspect of sleep's significance. It highlighted how inadequate rest can have adverse effects on mental health and memory, potentially impacting a person's housing stability and job prospects.
When we don't get enough sleep, we become more susceptible to mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Sleep disturbances can also impair cognitive function, making it difficult to concentrate and remember important information. For those who have experienced homelessness, these challenges can exacerbate their already difficult situation, hindering their ability to secure stable housing and gainful employment.
The Dire Consequences for People Experiencing Homelessness
The impact of chronic sleep insufficiency is particularly dire for individuals who have experienced homelessness. Homelessness is a harsh reality that exposes people to the elements and a lack of shelter. Without a safe and comfortable place to rest, those experiencing homelessness are often subjected to prolonged periods of sleep deprivation. Many are forced to stay awake at night to protect themselves and their loved ones from theft and assault.
The consequences are alarming. The average life expectancy for people who have experienced homelessness is a shocking 50 years old. This is a stark contrast to the general population, where life expectancy is considerably higher (around 80 years old, depending on region and subpopulation). The combination of sleep deprivation, exposure to the elements, and limited access to healthcare services contributes to early mortality among this vulnerable population.
In short: beds are healthcare
It's evident that beds are not merely a luxury or a matter of comfort; they are a fundamental aspect of healthcare. Chronic sleep insufficiency, if left unaddressed, can lead to serious health issues that can drastically shorten a life. Additionally, the impact on mental health and memory can further complicate housing stability, employment prospects,and overall well-being.
Wings delivers beds to around 180 households per year, making sure that these households have what they need to thrive in their new housing and start over after homelessness.
For individuals experiencing homelessness, the lack of a safe and comfortable place to sleep exacerbates these issues, contributing to a tragically shortened life expectancy. It is our collective responsibility to recognize the critical role that beds play in maintaining health and well-being. By acknowledging the significance of quality sleep, we can work towards ensuring that everyone has access to a safe and comfortable bed, ultimately improving the health and longevity of our communities. Beds are not just a matter of comfort; they are a matter of life and death and that’s why we’ll keep delivering them to people who need them as long as we can.
We are so grateful to our donors and volunteers who make our Welcome Home program possible.
Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy Journal: Jan. 2020, Vol. 31, Iss. 1, p 5-10
Harvard: “Sleep & Mental Health”, July 2009