Among the most common epidemics in the United States is sleep deprivation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of U.S. adults report that they get less than the recommended amount of sleep. And, women are more likely to report poor sleep than men.
While difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep can make anyone feel groggy, forgetful, or even cranky, there are other, more serious health risks. Not getting enough sleep has been linked to many chronic diseases and conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity and depression. It also increases the risk for motor vehicle crashes, injuries and workplace mishaps.
The idea that sleep is a luxury is a fallacy. Rather, it’s essential for good health. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the majority of adults require seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Yet, in a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) survey, more than one-third of adults reported less than seven hours of sleep during a typical 24-hour period. Sleep deprivation is linked to a wide range of health consequences that can jeopardize safety, emotional and mental stability, as well as long-term well-being. Mood and cognitive abilities are hindered by even a single night of poor quality sleep. You may feel cranky, sad or foggy. And, chronic sleep deprivation is linked to higher rates of anxiety and depression. Memory suffers, as does your ability to concentrate. This goes hand-in-hand with one of the most serious, sleep-related health risks—accidents. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that more than 1,550 deaths and 40,000 injuries each year in the United States are related to driver fatigue.
Although the cognitive and emotional effects of sleep deprivation are obvious, the metabolic and physiological impact builds over time, putting you at a higher risk for developing a range of chronic health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
“Sleep is essential. It’s not optional,” said Dr. Penny Stern, director of Preventive Medicine at Northwell Health. “We all need to view sleep as a vital component of good health. It shouldn’t be considered slothful or wasting time.”
Often, simple lifestyle changes can dramatically improve sleep quality, which include: cutting down or eliminating caffeine; keeping the bedroom cool, quiet and dark; maintaining a consistent sleep schedule; avoiding daytime napping; exercising on a regular basis; sleeping on comfortable, quality bedding (natural fibers are best); turning off electronic devices and TV at least one hour before bedtime and establishing a relaxing bedtime ritual that helps prepare you for sleep.
If you are experiencing sleep difficulties, it’s important to speak with your doctor. In some cases, prescription medications or the timing of medications can impact sleep. A sleep evaluation may be recommended to determine the cause of the problem. Once a diagnosis is made, treatment may include cognitive behavioral therapy or the use of a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine if sleep apnea is a factor.
Learn more about strategies and treatments for sleep disturbances by visiting www.northwell.edu/KIWH or call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.
—Submitted by the Katz Institute for Women’s Health