The Importance of Getting Enough ZZZs

We all know what it feels like to have a bad night’s sleep. The grogginess, the malaise -- you just don’t feel like yourself, and you probably can’t wait until bedtime rolls around again. Over time, sleep deficiency can negatively affect your mental and physical health. In addition, you may also be more prone to injury, less productive, and even at greater risk of death. 

What is sleep deficiency?

When you hear the term sleep deficiency, you may think it means you don’t get enough sleep. That is called sleep deprivation, and it’s a part of sleep deficiency. The National Institutes of Health says sleep deficiency occurs if you have one or more of the following: 

  • You don’t get enough sleep (sleep deprivation)
  • You sleep at the wrong time of day
  • You don’t sleep well, or you don’t get enough of each type of sleep (REM and non-REM)
  • You have a sleep disorder that prevents you from getting enough sleep or high-quality sleep

woman-2197947_1280Adults should get at least seven hours of sleep each night. Children need even more sleep than adults, but exactly how much sleep varies by age. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides this chart for reference: 

 

Age Group

Recommended Hours of Sleep Per Day

Newborn

0–3 months

14–17 hours (National Sleep Foundation)1

No recommendation (American Academy of Sleep Medicine)2

Infant

4–12 months

12–16 hours per 24 hours (including naps)2

Toddler

1–2 years

11–14 hours per 24 hours (including naps)2

Preschool

3–5 years

10–13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)2

School Age

6–12 years

9–12 hours per 24 hours2

Teen

13–18 years

8–10 hours per 24 hours2

Adult

18–60 years

7 or more hours per night3

 

61–64 years

7–9 hours1

 

65 years and older

7–8 hours1

A good night’s sleep consists of about 4-5 sleep cycles per night. Our bodies switch between non-REM cycles (deep sleep) and rapid eye movement -- or REM -- cycles (when we dream.) 

 America’s problem with sleep

Sleep deficiency affects people of all ages in the United States. According to the CDC, about 31 percent of adults over age 18 reported insufficient sleep and nearly 73 percent of students in grades 9-12 reported not getting enough sleep. What’s more, nearly 40 percent of adults reported unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least once a month. 

Sleep disorders are a large part of the problem. An estimated 50-to-70-million Americans have chronic sleep disorders -- the two most common are insomnia and sleep apnea. Insomnia is when a person has trouble falling or staying asleep. Apnea is a dangerous condition when a person’s breathing repeatedly stops or becomes shallow and as a result the person does not get enough oxygen.  

How sleep deficiency affects wellness

Sleep allows your mind and body to recharge and is vital to your overall wellness. Sleep deficiency can negatively impact your physical and mental health. People who are tired don’t function as well as people who get a good night’s sleep. Lack of sleep may: 

  • Impact your mood. You may be cranky and not get along well with people.
  • Make you less productive at work or school. You may be less focused, lack attention to detail, be unable to think clearly or solve problems. 
  • Increase your risk of developing chronic health problems such as heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity and depression.
  • Increase your risk of accident or injury. Sleepy drivers are more likely than well-rested drivers to cause car crashes that cause injury or death.
  • Affect your immune system. Your body may have a harder time fighting off illness, making you sick more often.

Some people may think they can get by with little or no sleep, but the fact is we need to sleep just as we need to breathe, eat and drink. Getting enough sleep, and enough high-quality sleep, are essential to keep your mind and body healthy. If you have trouble sleeping, or still feel tired after a full night’s rest, talk to your doctor for help finding the cause of the problem so you can start getting the ZZZs you need.

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