Millions of Americans say they're not getting enough sleep and this lack of shut-eye affects their personal relationships, job performance and mental and physical health. According to a new 2010 study of more than 30,000 people in 23 countries, commissioned by the Philips Center for Health and Well-Being, Americans are among the world leaders in sleep deprivation, along with the French and the Taiwanese. The survey found that 37 percent of Americans feel they don't get enough sleep.
"A lack of sleep is detrimental to our overall productivity and also has potentially troubling implications for our health," explained Malinda Miller, RRT, RPSGT, Sleep Lab Supervisor of the Salem Sleep Center. So what's the problem?
-49 percent of Americans who don't get enough sleep blame stress and worry.
-38 percent say they are poor sleepers.
-36 percent say they go to sleep late at night and get up very early.
Americans also realize that not getting enough sleep affects their daily lives:
-57 percent say sleep deprivation is a factor in their level of physical health.
-48 percent say lack of sleep affects their mental health.
-46 percent say it affects their home life.
-43 percent say it affects performance on the job.
-41 percent report that it affects their relationships with others.
-34 percent say it affects their level of community involvement.
How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?
Another recent study published by the National Sleep Foundation suggests that although there is no one answer when it comes to how much sleep adults need, there are ways to tell if you are not getting enough sleep.
"Some people need more sleep than others," said Miller. "This need is based on the person's age, sex, and previous sleep amounts, among other things. It also varies across the life cycle."
For example, the amount of sleep needed for good health and optimum daytime performance varies by age: preschoolers need 11 to 13 hours a night; school-age children should get 10 to 11 hours; teens must have at least nine hours; and adults should get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
"One of the ways to determine if you are getting enough sleep is if you awaken refreshed without the use of an alarm clock," she advised. "If you need to rely on an alarm clock, you are probably not getting enough rest. Try going to sleep 15 minutes earlier. If you still need an alarm clock to wake, move your bedtime earlier by another 15 minutes. Adjust your time until you no longer need an alarm to wake up. This exercise should give you a pretty good idea about the amount of sleep you need each night. Another question to ask yourself is how much coffee you are drinking. If you are pouring on the caffeine to stay awake, you are probably not getting enough sleep."
Sleep Deprivation and Health
"It is very important to get adequate sleep, whether a person needs seven, eight, or even nine hours of sleep a night," Miller added. "People tend to ignore the need for sleep in order to get other things done, but sleep is as important as what you eat, how much you exercise, and other healthy lifestyle practices. Sleep loss increases the risk of high blood pressure, weight gain, and diseases associated with these risk factors, such as diabetes and heart disease. Chronic sleep deprivation can also affect attention levels, reaction time and mood, leading to decreased productivity and increased family stress."
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine offers these tips for a good night's sleep:
- Don't exercise or have caffeine, alcohol, nicotine or heavy meals close to bedtime.
-It's fine to eat a small snack before bedtime to avoid going to sleep hungry.
-Follow a consistent bedtime routine.
-Keep your bedroom quiet, dark and cool.
-Don't sleep in on the weekends, since it makes it harder to wake up on Mondays.
If you are an adult and get at least 7.5 hours of sleep a night and are not waking up feeling refreshed, there may be other issues, such as sleep apnea that are affecting your sleep quality, Miller suggested. An estimated 20 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a common breathing disorder that occurs during sleep and has been associated with an increased risk of hypertension, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, stroke, atrial fibrillation, Type 2 diabetes and other conditions. The prevalence of sleep apnea varies among people with the following conditions:
-37 percent of people with hypertension
-83 percent of people with drug-resistant hypertension
-49 percent of people with atrial fibrillation
-76 percent of patients with congestive heart failure
-77 percent of morbidly obese patients
-50 percent of Type 2 diabetes patients
-86 percent of obese patients with Type 2 diabetes
Those who answer "yes" to two or more of the following symptoms are considered to have a positive screen for OSA:
-Do you snore?
-Are you excessively tired during the day?
-Have you been told you stop breathing during sleep?
-Do you have a history of hypertension?
-Is your neck size 17inches (male) or 16 inches (female)?
"If you have a positive screen for OSA or if you experience sleep difficulties, discuss your symptoms with your physician," Miller concluded. "Effective treatment of sleep apnea can dramatically improve the health and lives of OSA patients and may also decrease the risk of developing other potentially life-threatening conditions."
Malinda Miller, RRT, RPSGT, is the Sleep Lab Supervisor at the Salem Sleep Center, located in the Salem Medical Center, 2094 East State Street. For more information about the Salem Sleep Center, please call (330) 332-7796.