June 23, 2012 4 min read
According to statistics, America is one of the most sleep deprived country in the world. Over 70 million people in the United States have sleep problems. If you regularly get less sleep than your brain requires, then you are, by definition, sleep deprived. “You need to get a good night’s sleep” is something all of us have heard countless of times. And yet for some reason, our society still has a problem grasping the importance of getting enough sleep. A 1997 CNN article boldly declares “Lack of Sleep, America’s Top Health Problem” and it seems that little progress has been made in the 10+ years since.
Sleep is one of the most vital components of all life functions. When sleep is positive in terms of both quality and quantity, it provides the necessary energy and alertness to perform daily tasks.
Every year thousands of automobile and industrial accidents happen because the individuals operating the equipment are not getting enough sleep. But an increased risk for accidents is just one part of the consequences you may suffer if you continue to deprive your brain and body of the sleep it requires to keep you healthy.
A study published in the CDC’s weekly “Morbidity and Mortality Report” in March, revealed that one-third of Americans receive fewer than seven hours of sleep per night. And approximately 23% of people get less than 6 hours of sleep a night. Only 7% of Americans are getting 7 or more hours of sleep a night.
It seems that in large part the hectic American lifestyle could be to blame for nationwide sleep deprivation. “Our lifestyle and the social forces on us have made us restrict the number of hours we spend in bed”. There never seems to be enough time in a day to get everything we need done, and so we find ourselves rising earlier and going to bed later, scanning our facebook feed a little later into the night (guilty), staying up later to catch up on missed episodes of our favorite TV shows (guilty again). Maybe because of the additional stresses of family life, or the fact that women seem to emotionally take on more than is necessary, lack of sleep tends to be an issue that plagues women more than it does men. Studies show that women spend 32% more time awake than men.
Your sleeping habits impact your immune systems, memory functions, outward appearances and performance. A fun fact; one night without sleep leaves you performing like you were legally drunk at a blood alcohol content of .08 percent. If you’re sleeping poorly on most nights, you probably feeling pretty pooped. There are a host of health problems that are associated with chronic sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can make you more susceptible to colds, flu, and other infections. It can cause you to feel irritable and experience mood swings, reduce your ability to deal with stress, as well as increases your chances of having depression and anxiety. In short, most aspects of life are largely dependent upon sleep. Some other noteworthy health issues include:
The amount of sleep each of us requires is an individual matter. Some people feel rested with 5-6 hours of sleep; others need 9-10 hours. Generally, most adults should sleep 7-8 hours in a 24-hour period. Since no research indicates a specific amount of sleep, listen to your body and to what it needs.
The quality of sleep we get is probably more important than the quantity. Sleep consists of two types of slumber: REM sleep includes rapid eye movement and dreaming, while non-REM sleep includes four stages ranging from light to deep sleep. Each night you pass through 4-6 cycles of REM and non-REM sleep. It is in these deeper stages of sleep that the body restores itself, giving you that refreshed feeling. As we age, we spend less time getting the stage-four kind of rest.
We all know the importance of getting enough sleep, fact of the matter is sleep is awesome! Those who get more sleep find it easier to lose weight – even when they’re not on a diet or on a serious fitness routine. If you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll get tired while working out 11% faster than those who do. You’ll also have a 30-40% reduction in glucose metabolism – meaning you’ll need to work much harder (and longer) to burn those calories. In addition, good sleep is important in helping to keep excess weight off, especially weight gained as a result of getting older. Those who get more sleep have been shown to have a more positive outlook on life, and a more accepting sense of self. Longer sleep is associated with a higher IQ in children.
With sleep you can boost your brain power, have a more effective workout, drop excess weight, achieve inner peace, have a better sex life, and turn into a demi-god. Seems as if the pros outweigh the cons, so shut down your laptop, turn off your TV and start cutting those zzzz’s. Your mind, body, and soul will thank you for it!
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