Most of us have experienced poor sleep at one time or another. OK, who am I kidding? All of us have. If you regularly fail to get good sleep, you are not alone. Have you ever wondered what the impact of poor sleep is? Does it really matter much, other than being a little cranky the next morning?
The Prevalence of Poor Sleep
Sleep disorders and problems affected 75% of adults, according to a 2005 survey by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), and 54% experienced at least one symptom of insomnia.
The number of those affected by sleep problems is even greater, though, because often the partner of a person with a sleep disorder is just as impaired as the one with the problem. Research done at the Mayo Clinic, for example, revealed that treating a patient with sleep apnea resulted in the spouse getting an hour more sleep per night.
The average American gets less than 7 hours of sleep/night, which is less than the 7 1/2 – 8 hours recommended for adults. What’s more, Americans spend approximately $2 billion annually on sleep medications. If alcohol were included in this the cost would be much higher.
Problems of Poor Sleep
Given the amount of money spent, just on sleeping pills, it’s a safe bet that many people regard poor sleep as a problem. At the least it is an annoyance. The truth is, sleep deprivation can contribute to a host of problems of varying magnitude.
- Poor health – adequate sleep is one of the pillars of good health. People who don’t get enough sleep are at higher risk for diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
- Physical ailments – studies have shown that even three nights in a row of sleeping five hours or less make a person more likely to have headaches, stomach aches, and aches and pains in their joints and muscles.
- Decreased cognitive abilities – Those suffering from sleep deprivation find it harder to think, reason and pay attention. The longer the deprivation lasts the worse we become.
- Sleep deprivation and driving – Almost 20 percent of drivers will admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel. I once saw a person veer across four lanes of traffic on the freeway and smash into the guardrail on the far side because he had fallen asleep. Thank goodness nobody was hurt. However, many traffic accidents are caused by people driving in a sleep-deprived state. There is good evidence to suggest that driving while sleep deprived is more dangerous than driving while intoxicated.
- Expensive – Sleep-related problems are estimated to cost Americans over $100 billion annually due to reduced productivity, medical expenses, missed work and property damage.
- Quality of Life – You may think this is not a big deal, but if all you had to do to improve your general well being was to get 30-40 more minutes of sleep a night wouldn’t you do it? Virtually ever aspect of human life is impacted by sleep. This includes your attitude, energy, alertness, performance, sexual drive, and happiness.
Sleep Problems not Regarded Highly Enough
Unfortunately, many do not take poor sleep seriously enough, and too many doctors do not regard it as a serious medical concern. Doctors receive very little training on sleep in medical school. As a result sleep is too rarely considered as a cause in diagnosis.
This problem is exacerbated by the fact that only about 3% of people go to their doctors for help with sleep, and rarely does anyone mention to their doctor that they have been getting poor sleep.
Most do not recognize that sleep is a serious medical issue. Often we regard poor sleep, feeling tired and lacking energy as inevitable.
One of the goals of this website is to increase awareness about the consequences of sleep problems. Recognizing the problem will help motivate us to do something about it, and in the vast majority of sleep-related problems something can be done about it!