You know the drill. You get into bed and try to relax, but you just can’t get to sleep. Maybe a song is running through your head, or you’re thinking about some problem or another and you just can’t get your brain to turn off. Maybe you just can’t get comfortable. Or you fall right to sleep, but you wake up in the middle of the night, interrupting your sleep pattern. Whatever the reason you just don’t get the sleep that you really need.
Sleep deprivation appears to be a fairly common occurrence in the United States. According to recent scientific studies, most of us will experience sleep deprivation at some point in our lives. Over 60 million Americans have reported dealing with insomnia in recent years. Age is a factor with the numbers going up the older you get; seniors experience the highest percentage of insomnia.
So what is sleep deprivation?
While many people have heard the term insomnia, sleep deprivation is actually a type of insomnia. It is caused by the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep soundly. In its most basic definition, insomnia is the general sleep disorder of either not being able to fall asleep, or waking in the middle of the night and being unable to fall back asleep. Sleep Deprivation is part of the family of insomnia, and the two diagnoses are often used interchangeably.
What are some of the reasons that we lose sleep?
Some people may consider sleep as wasted time and will intentionally deprive themselves of sleep in order to pursue things such as entertainment, educational goals, or money-making pursuits; and is most likely to be seen in teenagers and young adults.
Others may unintentionally lose sleep because of shift work, family obligations, or demanding jobs.
Consistent sleep-wake patterns of going to bed late, frequent nighttime arousals, or waking up early can lead to sleep deprivation.
Other causes of sleep deprivation include medical problems such as depression, sleep apnea, hormone imbalance, and other chronic illnesses.
Facts and Statistics on Sleep Deprivation:
Loss of sleep alters normal functioning of attention and the ability to focus on environmental sensory input.
Lack of sleep has been implicated as playing a significant role in accidents involving planes, ships, trains, cars, and nuclear power plants.
Children and young adults are most vulnerable to the negative effects of sleep deprivation.
Sleep deprivation can be a symptom of an undiagnosed slppe disorder or other medical problem.
When you fail to get the required amount of sleep, you start to accumulate a sleep debt.
Sleep Disorder Statistics
50-70 million U. S. adults have a sleep disorder.
48.0% report snoring.
37.9% reported unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least once in the previous month.
4.7% reported nodding off or falling asleep while driving at least once in the previous month.
Drowsy driving is responsible for 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 nonfatal injuries annually in the United States.
Insomnia is the most common specific sleep disorder, with short term issues reported by about 30% of adults and chronic insomnia by 10%.
25 Million U. S. adults have obstructive sleep apnea.
9-21% of women have obstructive sleep apnea.
24-31% of men have obstructive sleep apnea.
3-5% of the overall proportion of obesity in adults could be attributed to short sleep.
Sleep Deprivation Statistics
37% of 20-39 year olds report short sleep duration.
40% of 40-59 year olds report short sleep duration.
35.3% of adults report less than 7 hours of sleep during a typical 24-hour period.
100,000 deaths occur each year in U. S. hospitals due to medical errors, and sleep deprivation has been shown to make a significant contribution.
The High Cost of Losing Sleep
The University of Maryland in 2010 gave the following estimates of the toll exacted each year in America by what one researcher calls the "24 hour, seven day" culture evolving in the national workplace:
- Direct costs: $16 billion
- Indirect costs: $50-$100 billion, which includes expenses sustained in sleep-related accidents, lawsuits, property damage, hospital bills, and death. The annual number of car crashes in that sum is estimated at 100,000
- Examples of industrial accidents in which loss of sleep played a part: Bhopal (gas leak), Challenger (disintegration of space shuttle), Chernobyl and Three Mile Island (nuclear disasters), Exxon Valdez (oil spill)
That's a staggering price tag, and as an annual expense it's a drain on the American economy.
What happens when we don’t get enough sleep?
Short-term problems resulting from lack of sleep can include:
- Lack of alertness: Research shows that missing as little as 1.5 hours can have an impact.
- Impaired memory: Lack of sleep can affect your ability to think and to remember and process information.
- Relationship stress: It can make you feel moody, and you can become more likely to have conflicts with others.
- Quality of life: You may become less likely to participate in normal daily activities or to exercise.
- Greater likelihood for car accidents: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving accounts for thousands of crashes, injuries, and fatalities each year.
You may see more serious and long-term health problems if you continue to operate without adequate sleep. Some of the most serious problems you could face include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, or stroke. Other potential problems can include obesity, depression, and lower sex drive.
Chronic sleep deprivation can also affect your appearance. Over time, it can lead to premature wrinkling and dark circles under the eyes. Additionally, research has linked lack of sleep with an increase in the stress hormone cortisol.
How many hours of sleep do we really need?
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) 2015 recommendations for appropriate sleep durations for specific age groups are:
- Newborns (0 to 3 months): 14 to 17 hours each day
- Infants (4 to 11 months): 12 to 15 hours
- Toddlers (1 to 2 years): 11 to 14 hours
- Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): 10 to 13 hours
- School-age children (6 to 13 years): 9 to 11 hours
- Teenagers (14 to 17 years): 8 to 10 hours
- Adults (18 to 64 years): 7 to 9 hours
- Older adults (over 65 years): 7 to 8 hours
The good news is that most of the negative effects of sleep deprivation reverse when sufficient sleep is obtained. Some suggestions for good sleep habits include:
- Going to bed when tired.
- Following a routine for bed and wake-up times, keeping it consistent every day of the week.
- Avoiding eating 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.
- If unable to fall asleep after 20 minutes of trying, going to another room and trying to read until feeling sleepy, then returning to bed.
- Engaging in regular exercise during the day.
- Keeping the bedroom quiet, dark and a comfortably cool temperature.
- Turning off electronic devices when you go to bed.
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