We’ve all experienced it: You lie awake long past the time you should be sawing logs, all the while knowing you are unlikely to be sharp and alert for the big day ahead.
You could get up and at least be productive, but what if you’re just about to find sleep at last?
Or maybe you’re out on the town with an old friend, or watching a late game that goes into double overtime. Should you sacrifice sleep for the memories that staying up could offer?
It’s a quandary for sure.
One thing that is not in dispute is the value of a good night’s sleep — as well as the fact that many Americans are not getting it.
According to the American Sleep Association, nearly 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. Insomnia is the most common sleep issue, with 30% of adults suffering from short-term insomnia and 10% from a long-term affliction.
Health experts agree that adults need at least seven hours of sleep per night. But about 35% of people get less than that. Age seems to be a big factor in the lack of sleep, with 37% of people ages 20–39 reporting low sleep duration and 40% of people ages 40–59 getting too little sleep.
Lack of sleep can have a significant negative impact on mental and physical health. Although it might seem like a harmless nuisance, long-term insomnia can have a dramatic effect on daily life and even lead to death from accidents and impaired judgment.
“Sleep is not just beneficial but essential to our mental and physical health,” said Christine Deschemin, a certified hypnotherapist based in Hong Kong. “Sleep deprivation can cause a series of illnesses and poor emotional regulation. It is believed to lead to more inflammation. People who lack sleep tend to be more hungry, and their cognitive abilities can be impaired. Their minds are foggy, and they may lack focus and concentration.”
Wide Awake Costs
The costs to society of sleep deprivation are substantial. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, insomnia costs:
» 11.3 days of work for the average worker every year.
» $2,280 in lost productivity for the average worker each year.
» A total of $63.2 billion for the entire nation in lost productivity per year.
The individual costs are hefty as well. About 1,600 deaths and 40,000 injuries are caused by drowsy driving each year, the American Sleep Association reported. Likewise, a significant portion of the 100,000 hospital deaths caused by medical errors each year can be attributed to sleep deprivation.
The obvious solution is to get more sleep. But for some, it is easier said than done.
There are things you can do to make sleep come faster and with more regularity, Deschemin said. She lists four environmental keys to promoting good sleep:
» Make sure to go to bed around the same time each night.
» Make your bedroom a place conducive to deep sleep (keep the place dark, relaxing and at a comfortable temperature).
» Avoid stimulants (caffeine, alcohol).
» Remove electronic devices from the bedroom.
Sleep is crucial for the body to refresh and replenish itself. A night’s sleep comprises many cycles of about 90 minutes each, Deschemin explained.
Each cycle includes different stages with different benefits and characterized by different brain wave patterns. The first part of the cycle is NREM sleep (non-rapid eye movement), and the second part of the cycle is REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
“With the help of those cycles, our bodies and minds go through renewal,” she added. “It is believed that the body experiences more growth and renewal during the last stage of the NREM sleep (deep sleep or slow-wave sleep) and during REM sleep. With the release of growth hormones, the body is able to repair itself.”
10 Benefits Of Good Sleep
There are many benefits of getting regular, good sleep every night. Here are 10 from www.verywellhealth.com:
- A healthy heart. Lack of sleep has been associated with worsening blood pressure and cholesterol, which are risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
- Reduced cancer risk. Melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, is thought to protect against cancer, as it appears to suppress the growth of tumors.
- Less stress. This one is simple: A tired body is more prone to stress and high blood pressure. And high blood pressure leads to a host of other health issues.
- Reduced inflammation. Studies show that mediators of inflammation are altered by sleep loss.
- Increased alertness. A good night’s sleep makes you feel energized and alert. The increased energy level allows the body to perform normally without having to compensate for sleep loss.
- Improved memory. Research hasn’t fully explained why we dream; doctors are certain of the connection between good sleep and enhanced memories, events and feelings.
- Weight control. Researchers have found that people who sleep fewer hours per night are more likely to be overweight or obese.
- Napping makes you smarter. According to one study, people who did not nap or took naps shorter than one hour experienced mental decreases four to six times greater than those who napped at least an hour.
- Reduced risk of depression. Proper sleep can help maintain proper serotonin levels in the body. People with serotonin deficiencies are more likely to suffer from depression, doctors say.
- Overall rejuvenation. Sleep helps the body repair itself and operate at optimum efficiency.