Fight Sleep Deficiency with Healthy Choices
Chronic sleep deficiency is a problem for many people. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) more than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. Lack of sleep can have serious impacts on our health. Glucose metabolism declines 30-40% resulting in weight gain and a larger waistline. We become fatigued faster than when we have a full night’s sleep. Two days with sleep restriction leads to a threefold increase of lapse in attention and reaction to situations. Sleep insufficiency is linked to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and medical and other occupational errors. Unintentionally falling asleep, nodding off while driving, and having difficulty performing daily tasks because of sleepiness contribute to these hazardous outcomes. Persons experiencing sleep insufficiency are also more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity. Sleep deficiency may be caused by broad scale societal factors such as round-the-clock access to technology and work schedules, but sleep disorders such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea also play an important role. An estimated 50-70 million US adults have sleep or wakefulness disorders.
Cognitive performance after less than six hours of sleep is equivalent to getting no sleep for 48 straight hours. Cognitive performance relates to mental processes of perception, memory, judgment, and reasoning.
A 2017 study commissioned by the University of Washington Health Sciences concluded chronic sleep deprivation suppresses the immune system. Simply stated, people get sick more often when they don’t get enough sleep. Dr. Nathaniel Watson, co-director of the UW Medicine Sleep Center at Harborview Medical Center states, “What we show is that the immune system functions best when it gets enough sleep. Seven or more hours of sleep is recommended for optimal health.”
How Much Sleep Do We Need and are We Getting Enough?
How much sleep we need varies between individuals but generally changes with age. The National Institutes of Health suggests that school-age children need at least 10 hours of sleep daily, teens need 9-10 hours, and adults need 7-8 hours.
“Sleep is the most under-appreciated health crisis in America,” states Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show”. In conjunction with ResMed, Dr. Oz and ResMed gathered sleep statistics from 20,000 people representing over 1.5 million nights’ worth of sleep. Their findings demonstrate that sleep is chronically neglected by most Americans.
Observations from the data collected includes:
79% of the population sleeps less than the 7 hours recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine – Most Americans sleep one hour less. To put this in context, a recent study by AAA reported that sleeping as little as one hour less than recommended doubles the risk of a traffic accident.
Women sleep longer than men – Men average 5 hours, 45 minutes, while women average 6 hours, 9 minutes.
On average, Americans go to bed at 10:21 pm and wake up at 7:41 am. People in the Pacific time zone go to bed the latest, at 11:17 p.m., and people in the Eastern time zone wake up the earliest at 7:40 a.m.
Exercise is good for sleep – Any amount is helpful, but the optimal amount is 30 minutes, which correlates with 14 minutes of extra sleep per night.
Caffeine – Three or fewer cups of coffee didn’t notably affect average sleep time, but those who drank four cups or more slept 26 minutes less.
Alcohol – Those who had one or two drinks slept an average of 16 minutes more than people who had more than two drinks – or none.
Children can be both good and bad for sleep – Men with 0-1 children get the most sleep, and women with 2-3 children get the most sleep. Having more children seems to impact men more – they lose 45 minutes of sleep per night with 4 or more children, whereas women with 4 or more children only lose 25 minutes.
Mattresses matter –The type of mattress people sleep on appears to make an average difference of 20 minutes sleep per night.
Common sleep problems – Excessive fatigue during the day and taking too long to fall asleep were the most common reported issues. Waking up in the middle of the night is also a major problem for many Americans.
Sleep aids – 50% of study participants reported using a mix of two or more sleep aids per night, such as prescription medications, over the counter sleeping pills and herbal remedies/food supplements for sleep.
Sleep is an essential physiological process, but in our fast paced, highly productive lives, we often sacrifice sleep for other activities. This is due in part to our perception of sleep as a non-productive endeavor, when from a physiological and health standpoint it is our most productive time of our day.
William C. Dement, M.D., Ph.D., Stanford University, is the one of the world’s leading scientists on sleep. For this pioneering work in a previously uncharted field, he is sometimes referred to as the father of sleep medicine. Dr. Dement states, “Healthy sleep has been empirically proven to be the single most important determinant in predicting longevity, more important than diet, exercise and heredity.”
Sleep Matters and getting enough sleep is one way that we all can be healthier, more productive and happier.
Tips for a better night's sleep:
Stick to a sleep schedule, even on weekends.
Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual.
Evaluate your bedroom to ensure ideal temperature, sound and light.
Beware of hidden sleep stealers, like alcohol and caffeine.
Turn off electronics before bed.
Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
Get 8 hours a night of good quality sleep. It’s one way to be Healthy by Choice. Sweet Dreams.
Be Healthy by Choice and not by Chance