It’s all too easy to avoid dealing with sleep problems. With all of our busy, hectic lives, it’s a common tendency to push aside sleep woes in favor of getting ahead on work or catching up on our latest Netflix show. But the truth is, not getting enough sleep has serious consequences to health, happiness, and safety. Alertness, memory, job performance and mood all depend on adequate sleep.
A common condition
So how big a problem is sleep deprivation in the United States? According to research by the Centers for Disease Control, 30 percent of working adults in the U.S. sleep no more than six hours nightly. That’s significantly less than the seven or more hours a night of recommended sleep for a healthy adult according to the joint consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society
Never catching up
No one is saying you should worry about the occasional poor night’s sleep (although a single night of poor sleep has its consequences). But when sleep deprivation becomes a chronic issue, the effects can be quite serious. Chronic sleep loss increases risks for a range of serious illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. A regular pattern of insufficient sleep can also seriously impair thinking, memory, judgment, mood and reaction time, with dangerous and even deadly consequences. Too many public health disasters and accidents—from the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl to the Exxon Valdez oil spill, from the Space Shuttle Challenger shuttle explosion to the Metro-North train derailment—have been linked to fatigue and sleep-related human error. Sleep deprivation presents more than individual risks to health and well-being—it also poses serious risks to public safety.
Facts on short sleep
If you believe you’re one of the rare individuals who can get by without much sleep, first, think again, then consider the following:
- Sleep deprivation and sleep disorders cost Americans hundreds of billions of dollars every year in lost productivity, medical expenses, sick leave, and property and environmental damage, according to a report by the U.S. Institute of Medicine.
- On an annual basis, the US loses an equivalent of about 1.23 million working days and economic losses (up to $411 billion a year) due to insufficient sleep.
- 100,000 car crashes are caused by drowsy drivers each year, according to conservative estimates.
- The effects of cutting sleep short are similar to the effects of drinking alcohol. Even moderate sleep deprivation can lead to cognitive and motor-skill impairments similar to—or even worse than—being legally drunk.
Good sleep is simply a necessity
For some, less sleep can be seen as a lifestyle “choice.” The truth is that sleep is anything but. Sleep is necessary and essential to good health, safety, and well-being.
With jobs, families and all the demands on our time, we often opt to sacrifice our sleep in order to get everything done. And for some, a sleep disorder is to blame for their insufficient sleep.
If you want to keep track of how much sleep you’re getting each night and see what a healthy amount is for your age and gender, download the free SleepScore App and track tonight to get started. The SleepScore App also features SleepScore CheckUp, a free service that monitors your sleep for signs of a possible sleep disorder, offering a clinically validated self-assessment if necessary, so you can get the information you need and start a dialogue with your physician.