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Sleep Deprivation Hurts Workers, So Why Does Our Culture Encourage It? (VIDEO)

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The train derailment that killed four passengers in New York on Dec. 1 has put a spotlight on sleep after investigators announced the train's engineer may have nodded off shortly before the accident.

Research shows that sleep sharpens attention, facilitates creativity and supports our health in a myriad of ways, but our fast-paced society does not put sleep on the pedestal it should, according to Russell Sanna, Ph.D., the executive director of Harvard Medical School's Division of Sleep Medicine.

Sanna told HuffPost Live's Nancy Redd that the 24/7 availability of media and mobile devices in the United States has created an "attention economy" that encourages people to limit sleep in order to remain connected.

"We have to make sleep recognized as not a lifestyle choice, but a biological imperative for everyone," Sanna said.

Sanna's colleague Dr. Stuart Quan, M.D., who also works in the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard, said prioritizing sleep is especially important for people who work the night shift and are therefore fighting against their body's traditional patterns for rest.

"If a person is a shift worker, basically they're working during periods of time when their bodies want to sleep," Quan said. "Of course, if you compound that by being sleep-deprived, then you've made things worse, and now your sleepiness is even worse than it would be if you were just short on two or three hours of sleep."

Check out the full conversation about the dangers of sleep deprivation at HuffPost Live HERE:

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