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Saturday, 3 March 2012

A Century and Nothing Changes

This is something we've all done at least once.  Gotten behind the wheel after 1 or two hours sleep.  Or, in some cases, no sleep at all.  And we think we're okay, at least for the first twenty minutes.  And then the nods start.  They are known as microslips.  We close our eyes for a second or two and then jerk awake.  We've all done this.  Some more than others.

As our work week has grown longer, the problem has become more pronounced.  And, over the last twenty years, because of the increase in road use, the risk to others and our selves has grown exponentially.  The problem is the freeways and express routes that have been built to make our drive "easier" (they probably should, in many cities be called "noways and parking lots"), when traffic is moving well, the constant speed becomes hypnotic, lulling us to feeling secure on some primal level, and the brain phases out.

The consequences of sustained sleep deprivation are excessive tiredness, lack of concentration, and even hallucination.  When people who average four hours sleep a night get behind the wheel, they are suffering from all these things.  What happens if they slip out?

They put us all at risk.  They are as bad driving under the influence.

In fact, the number one killer in the USA is sleep deprivation.  Too many long hours.

At work.  In the fifties it was thought that people would be working fewer and fewer hours as machines have taken over the menial tasks.  This hasn't come about.  Instead, the average work week has increased.  I believe in the US its over well over 50 hours.

Technology hasn't helped.  The computer is a vast improvement over the typewriter, but, employers expect that improvement "plus", in productivity.

So we work harder and longer in pursuit of a lifestyle that becomes harder and harder to actually achieve.  Food goes up.   Fuel goes up.  Power goes up.  Wages don't seem to be.  So we work ever longer.

And family?  We let other people raise our kids.  Daycare, after school care, the television- we can't be home, otherwise we don't have a home because we can't meet the mortgage.  Problems like delinquency and drug use escalate, because no one is there.

What happened to us?

People need to focus on what really matters, and employers shouldn't be allowed to profit at the expense of employees health and well being.  I thought that battle had been fought a hundred years ago.

Apparently, I am mistaken.

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