America’s sleep deficiency: When you can’t snooze, you lose
Friday, March 03, 2017
Americans seem to be closing their eyes to a problem that's growing, despite exhaustive research into the ramifications. It's time to wake up and smell the coffee: We don't get enough sleep.
Insufficient sleep has been declared a "public health problem" by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which attributed an increased risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes, depression, cancer and reduced productivity to a shortage of shut-eye.
The "productivity" reference covers a lot of ground. Research has been conducted in a wide range of demographics: young and old, students and workers, military personnel, medical professionals and first responders. The volume of effort into the topic shows how serious this problem has become.
Workers who suffered sleep impairment experienced more issues concentrating and staying organized at work, and were more likely to avoid interacting with co-workers, according to a 2008 telephone poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation. Survey respondents who reported being deprived of sleep also had a higher rate of absenteeism attributed to the issue, the study found.
A similar 2009 study found that insomnia was cited "in terms of health problems and healthcare utilization, work absenteeism and reduced productivity," the researchers from Canada's Universite Laval stated. And it's not like we're making up for that drop-off in productivity by working longer hours. That extra work doesn't improve outcomes at work, and can even lead to other issues stemming from the stress that it causes, reported the Harvard Business Review.
Businesses of all sizes keep an eye on healthcare costs, which can be affected by the health ramifications of sleep loss, as indicated by the CDC. The math adds up: Sleep-deprived workers are likely to be less healthy, which can be more costly.
The effects extend outside the office building. Military personnel suffer the diagnosis frequently, which can result in post-deployment depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other afflictions, according to a study led by Dr. Vincent Mysliwiec of the Madigan Army Medical Center.
The American Academy of Pediatrics urges that school start times be pushed back to allow adolescents to get more sleep, helping them to avoid health-related problems. Teens who suffer from a persistent lack of sleep are more likely to commit crimes as adults, according to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania.
The police officers who are dealing with those criminals face their own sleep-related issues. "Police officers who screened positive for a sleep disorder were likely to report more actual and near-miss administrative errors and safety violations," stated an American Academy of Sleep Medicine report in the JAMA Network.
Those in the medical field who see first-hand the effects of improper sleep are not immune to the same disorders. So says a study on "sleep and the medical profession" published in Pulmonary Medicine in 2005. That encourages further research on the training of medical professionals, taking into account how sleep impacts that.
Results of a Gallup poll show that 40 percent of Americans get six or fewer hours of sleep nightly. The average of 6.8 hours per night cited in the 2013 research is down more than an hour from a similar poll conducted in 1942.
So how much should we sleep? According to the CDC, preschoolers need 11-12 hours of sleep each night, school-aged children 10 hours, teens 9-10 hours and adults 7-8 hours. Even though the numbers drop as the age increases, things change at age 65. More than two-thirds of Americans 65 or older reported getting at least seven hours of sleep a night, outpacing every other age group.
Part of the problem: We know we're not getting enough sleep but we're not doing much to change that, at least individually. In a 2008 study, the CDC showed that more than 10 percent of adults reported insufficient sleep or rest in the previous 30 days. Among individual states, the number rose to nearly 20 percent in West Virginia, and as low as 7 percent in North Dakota.
Researchers have spent a lot of waking hours looking into the causes of the problem and potential solutions. But when it comes to a resolution, it appears that few of us consider this as something to lose sleep over.
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