Sleepless Nights

Posted: October 29, 2007 in Health, Homelessness

There is an old nursery rhyme that begins with the line:

"Now I lay me down to sleep…"

Unless a person has some sort of sleep disorder most people go through their day and then at one point or another in the evening will find themselves going through the routine of getting themselves ready for bed. When they finally do fall to sleep they will get some sort of rest that their bodies require to function the next day.  

Sleep is a necessary component of life. It allows mind and body to recuperate and continue to operate at efficient levels. It’s also necessary for sound physical health.

The homeless generally suffer poorer health than non-homeless. This is due in part to lack of proper nourishment, but it is also due to the lack of adequate and proper sleep.

Among the homeless that I know, there is a high incidence of on going – and almost chronic – fatigue. This is a direct result of the lack of sleep, especially among those who cannot find a bed at the shelter and are forced to sleep out of doors.

The struggle to find a place a safe place to sleep is an ongoing issue with the homeless. First there is the distinct reality that they might be hassled – and potentially ticketed or arrested – by law enforcement prevents them from being able to acquire restful sleep. Second is the potential of having some form of violence perpetrated against them while they sleep. Third is that Mother Nature herself may decide to rain or snow, or any number of other things.

The result is that those homeless who are forced to sleep out of doors are forced to sleep with the proverbial "one eye open." Subsequently, it is not unusual to see a homeless person riding a bus and falling asleep during the ride, or sitting in some public place dozing off. Human beings however, unlike cats, are ill-equipped to survive on cat naps.

Beside chronic fatigue, lack of sleep can create other ill side effects. Studies have shown that as a person begins to become sleep deprived their personalities can be altered. In some instances, persons who suffer from the lack of sleep can become over aggressive or even violent.

I’m not saying that ALL homeless people become violent due to the lack of sleep, but some do. Some find themselves unable to concentrate, or perform at a level that would allow them to even begin looking for employment. Others will become unable to make rational decisions. And still others, find that their health begins to deteriorate at an accelerated rate. Sadly, some homeless will find themselves experiencing nervous breakdowns due to the lack of sleep.

All of this actually costs society more in the long run than it would to find effective ways of remedying homelessness. And, as long as we close our eyes to the plight of America’s homeless it will continue to get worse – more and more people will become homeless.

Sooner or later, unless we "wake up" and work together to find viable solutions to ending homelessness in our nation, we are going to find that the situation has gone past the point of no return. And, in the process we will have bankrupted ourselves financially…

… And morally.


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