Chronic lack of sleep is more than just a nagging problem.
Its a serious public health issue, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recognizes more than 80 sleep problems, including sleep apnea and narcolepsy. And society pays a high cost, with some industrial, public transportation, traffic, medical and other accidents blamed on lack of sleep.
Persons experiencing sleep insufficiency are also more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity, the CDC website states.
Whats the problem?
While seven-and-a-half or eight hours of shut-eye a night may be enough for many, some people require nine or 10 hours and others can get along on five or six hours of sleep, said Michael Neeb, director of an Oklahoma City sleep disorders center. Part of the problem is the way society is structured, which is 24/7 and no defined end point to our day, Neeb said. And all-night access to television, retail and grocery stores, and technology that allows for research, game playing, social networking and work erode sleep time. Most people I know commit to eight hours (of sleep) before something comes along and whittles away at that, be it laundry, the kids homework, a TV show, the computer.
Environmental noise and light pollution computers, TV and radio also contribute.
And its clear that with the advent of sleep disorders medicine, you can build up a sleep debt that you cant recover in one night, said Frank Horton, an Ohio sleep specialist. You have to gradually recover it.
The amount of sleep people require can change with the seasons some need less in the summer and more in winter.
Somehow sometimes we look at people who sleep too much as being lazy or nonproductive, Neeb said. We must look at sleep proactively, that we do so for our health, physical and mental. Here are some ways to get your zzzzzs:
Bring structure to your life: We take work home, hop online to do what we dont get done in the daytime everything seems to be moving toward breaking down structure, Neeb said. We need time to play, work, sleep. We have to really exert a lot of effort into getting more structure into our daily activities.
Fatigue vs. sleepiness: You dont put yourself to bed just because you are physically exhausted. When you are sleepy is when you go to the bedroom. When you are exhausted, the body is keyed up and you need to unwind and relax. That is the best prescription, Neeb said.
Keep a schedule: People are often good at putting themselves to bed at a good time. You cant control when you fall asleep but you can control a time when to wake up. If you focus on your morning wakeup and get up at the same time seven days a week, and dont allow yourself to sleep in, Neeb said, youll get sleepy at about the same time every night.
Give it two weeks: Try getting eight hours a night for two weeks, then see how you feel. If you give it a two-week trial, generally you see some improvement, and then people get on board and try to make it their daily life cycle, Neeb said.