Like many people, I come from a family with a genetic tendency toward addiction. As a result I am always on point when the untimely loss of a celebrity like Robin Williams makes the headlines, wondering what all of the factors were that lead to such a tragedy. Having just returned from several long travel days (combined with a night in the emergency room and many hours of driving,) I became keenly aware of how debilitating it is to go without sleep. What I didn’t realize was that it could actually be lethal. After sitting through sad hours of news reports about the loss of one of our most beloved comedians, I began wondering – How could such a warm engaging person be depressed? Is it true that addiction and sleep deprivation are sometimes related? Who is likely to fall prey and why? Does the fact that celebs like George Clooney Lady Gaga and Rihanna all suffer from sleep disorders, make it more or less common?
What I discovered is that no amount of fame or fortune will separate you from the masses when it comes to the basic human need for sleep. Even Michael Jackson with his personal physician was not able to survive the 60 days with no REM that predicated his demise, despite expensive medical intervention.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, about 40 million people in the United States suffer from chronic long-term sleep problems.
That is basically the population of Argentina.
In the US alone approximately one million injuries occur each year from preventable errors linked to sleep deprivation. That’s 1,000,000.
If the word “injury” strikes you as benign, consider this: The Institutes Of Medicine claim that “approximately 50,000 to 100,000 deaths each year result from preventable medical errors.” Fifty thousand. 50,000. That is the same number of people the Aloha stadium in Honolulu holds.
That’s a lot of corpses.
The NIH says that; “Sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain. If you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.”
I am not suggesting that a good nights sleep would have saved Robin Williams from the death he chose. But it could save you, or someone you love.