Americans are sleep deprived. No one seems to be getting “enough” sleep, which scientists say should be 8 hours a night.
Not only is chronic sleep deprivation hazardous — a contributing factor to traffic accidents — not getting enough sleep is also injurious to our health.
Emily Yahr reports for the Washington Post, on the findings of the 2-hour “Sleepless in America,” a collaboration by NatGeo, National Institutes of Health (NIH) and The Public Good Projects:
1. 40% of American adults are sleep-deprived: The average American sleeps less than 7 hours per night during the week, including 70% of adolescents.
2. Reasons for Americans not getting enough sleep:
- Our constantly moving, overstimulated 24/7 society with so much technology and gadgetry that distracts everyone all the time.
- Overwork results in people not have enough time to do the things they want during the week. As a result, they stay up even later on weekends so they can compensate.
3. Sleep is “just as important as good nutrition, physical activity and wearing your seatbelt”: Mark Rosekind, member of the National Transportation Safety Board, said: “Every aspect of who you are as a human, every capability is degraded, impaired, when you lose sleep. What does that mean? Your decision-making, reaction time, situational awareness, memory, communication, and those things go down by 20% to 50%.”
4. Health effects of sleeping less than 7 hours a night include an increased risk for:
- Obesity: An NIH study reduced subjects’ sleep to 4 hours a night and saw the impact on their weight. Turns out, sleeplessness increases an appetite for fatty foods, and the study showed that “short sleepers” consume 500 more calories a day than people who get enough sleep.
- cardiovascular disease
- Alzheimer’s disease: When you sleep, the brain clears out toxic chemicals — and one of the proteins that accumulates in the brain while you’re awake is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Mental diseases: Almost all mental illnesses have associated sleep problems, experts say. In fact, sleep deprivation is nearly universal in every psychiatric condition, from bipolar disorder to anxiety disorders. Studies show that high school students who sleep more have higher test scores and lower rates of depression
5. The good news is that sleep can “inspire creativity, re-balance emotions, help refresh cardiovascular health, metabolic health and boost our immune system.”
So make getting 8 hours of sleep a night a priority!