Sleep Deprivation and the Shelters

The Atlantic had an interesting article last month about sleep deprivation among homeless people and the negative consequences on a person's life.  We know that homelessness does shorten a person's life primarily because of food, environmental issues, sleep deprivation, and a lack of consistent health care.  WebMD lists a number of causes of sleep deprivation, but does not include homelessness:

There are many causes of sleep deprivation. The stresses of daily life may intrude upon our ability to sleep well, or perhaps we trade sleep for more work or play. We may have medical or mental-health conditions that disrupt our sleep, and be well aware that we are sleep-deprived.

The Atlantic article references a laundry list of issues associated with sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation has also been linked to an increase in mental illness, drug abuse among teenagers, and higher rates of violence and aggressionSchizophrenia-like symptoms may also start to develop, which is problematic in a population that already experiences a higher-than-average likelihood of suffering from the disease.

In Cleveland, the residents have been asking for shelter regulations that protect sleep issues.  They just passed a requirement that shelters make accommodations for those working second and third shift.  Who knows how long it will take to get these implemented and posted in the shelters?  Right now, shelters do very little to provide help to help those who work 4 to Midnight shift.  For example, until you can get a work bed at the main men's shelter you will be awakened at 6 a.m. to leave the shelter by 8 am no matter what time you get to the shelter at night.  Many nights the beds are filled by a guy working an early shift then stripped and reset for the guy coming off a second shift.

The members of the Homeless Congress tried to get a tough bed rest policy passed by the County, but that was removed.  The residents of the shelter are concerned because some of the shelters are selective in which bed rest order from a doctor they will honor.  It is like they do not believe some doctors while they believe others.  These near minimum wage workers are superseding the decisions of legitimate doctors and often interfering with the healing process. 

I have done a number of protests of living outside and the most striking thing you realize is the inability to sleep when you stay outside.  Even for one to three days, your senses are supercharged with the sense of danger and being constantly on guard. The threat of having your shoes and other valuables makes it difficult to sleep in the shelters.  Try sleeping on all your valuables with your shoes on and "keeping one eye open,"  so that no one comes by and tries to lift your phone or wallet, and see how long you can stay awake the next day.  How long until you just snap from all the stress or are hospitalized from health issues that arise from a lack of sleep?  This is the life of a homeless person in Cleveland and most of the United States everyday.

Brian Davis

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