The Risks of Chronic Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation is a significant health problem our society faces today.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 7-19 percent of adults in the United States do not get enough sleep. This is based on the organization’s recommendations that adults ages 18 and older get between 7 and 9 hours of quality sleep nightly.
In addition, nearly 40 percent of adults reported accidentally falling asleep during the day at least once a month.
A 2016 study by the CDC found that Hawaii takes the lead in sleep deprivation, with about 56 percent of residents who clocked in with the recommended hours of sleep each night.
“People on Oahu wake up early and sacrifice sleep to commute to work. Additionally, people who live in sunny climates are awake longer during the day and sleep less at night,” says Dr. Valerie Cacho, medical director of sleep medicine at Straub Medical Center.
However, lack of sleep can have negative health consequences in both the short and long term.
Getting the right amount of sleep is important for mental health, physical health, quality of life and safety."
In the short run, sleep deprivation can affect your mood and reaction times, slowing your judgement and the ability to learn and retain information.
Not getting enough sleep also may increase your risk of serious accidents or injuries.
In the long run, sleep deprivation may put you at greater risk for chronic health problems such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even early death.
“Getting the right amount of sleep is important for mental health, physical health, quality of life and safety,” Cacho says, noting that there are proactive things you can do to make sure you get enough sleep.
“The most important step is to give yourself enough time to sleep,” Cacho says. “Set an alarm to start the bedtime wind-down process. Just as we have an alarm that reminds us to wake up, we should have one to remind us to get ready for bed.”
Here are six other ways to improve your sleeping habits:
- Try your best to maintain the same sleep schedule every day. Staying up late and sleeping in late can disrupt your body’s natural sleeping cycle.
- Stop eating heavy meals and drinking alcoholic beverages at least two hours before bedtime.
- Avoid nicotine (i.e., cigarettes) and caffeine (i.e., soda, coffee, tea, chocolate), which can interfere with sleep. You should have your last caffeinated beverage somewhere between six to eight hours before bed.
- Be physically active. Working out can improve your sleep by relieving muscle tension. Exercise also can increase the quality of your sleep and reset your sleep-wake cycle. However, some people find strenuous activity before bed makes it harder to fall asleep. If this is you, work out earlier in the day or evening so you have enough time to cool down.
- Reserve an hour before bed for relaxation. Wind down with a book, herbal tea or light breathing exercises.
- Keep your bedroom quiet, cool and dark. Avoid bright, artificial light from a TV, computer screen or phone screen, as the lights may trick our brains into thinking it’s daytime.
If you are still having trouble falling asleep, you should talk to your primary care physician to address the root of the problem and discuss other options to help you sleep.
Or, contact the Straub Sleep Medicine Department at 808-522-4448 or click here.
Published on: July 12, 2018