Is the bark truly mightier than the bite? The number of citizens killed directly by dogs and other animals is well known and generally easy to document. I had the thought a while back that the number of people killed indirectly by same due to related health issues and sleep deprivation may indeed be MUCH higher.
A couple of years ago when the barking nuisance on my street was at its peak, it was not uncommon for me to be awakened prematurely by the useless yard-barkers across the street. I never blamed the dogs as the owner was 100% responsible for creating the situation. I was disrupted for prolonged periods, it was difficult to get back to sleep, and I would be seriously sleep deprived the following day. This is addition to the fact that abrupt loud noises, such as barking, affect the body’s autonomic systems thereby raising heart rate, blood pressure, etc…
I’d like to examine the potential outcomes of situations such as these, particularly in how they may cause premature death.
There have been several studies done that indicate that sleep deprivation can impair motor skills, judgment, etc… in a manner similar to consumption of alcohol. In other words, driving while sleep deprived is roughly equivalent to driving drunk. Here is a CNN study and a US News article with more information.
It is well known that sufficient sleep is key to good health. It is this simple: When you deprive others of sleep, you are making them sick. As I noted above, loud noises projected into people’s homes can also cause health issues during waking hours as well.
I anticipate that the number of premature deaths attributable to “nuisance” barking is higher than the number killed in dog attacks. I am contemplating the following:
- Motor vehicle, industrial, and other accidental deaths due to barking induced sleep deprivation.
- Heart attacks, strokes, and other potentially lethal health issues due to barking induced stress.
Of course, with driving you can make the choice not to drive. I like to think of myself as a responsible driver. If I’m at a party and have a few too many, I grab a cab or stay over where I am at. Returning to the topic at hand, impairment due to barking induced sleep deprivation is difficult to measure. It puts me in a bad situation that was not entirely of my making: First of all, I did not choose to have those loud noises projected into my living space, the anti-social dog owners made that choice for me. Second, must I abdicate my responsibilities and thus create a larger hardship on myself and others? I now have a choice to either drive tired (endangering myself and others) or surrender a day’s wages? Do I instruct colleagues that they must pick up my work load due to a nuisance barker? Perhaps even lose the work assignment? Thanks a LOT, neighbors!
As a follow up to “Prejudice” and a pre-cursor to another article I am working on, the above is just ONE reason we need to go after the “little” stuff. Small offenses can and do add up over time. What is worse, stealing $50,000 in one day, or stealing $1,000 per day for 50 days? The mauler is the former, the nuisance barker is the latter. You have the same outcome either way.