Don't Blow Off Getting Enough Sleep

"There is never enough time in the day."

How many times have you heard people say this? Our lives are so packed, so busy with so many things we need to do that something has to give. Frequently, the thing that is given up is sleep. And as the US Centers for Disease Control recently reported, nearly one in three adults do not get the recommended amount of sleep.

Sleep experts and specialists (and I am Board-certified in Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine) recommend about 7-8 hours of sleep per night for most adults. Some can do just fine with less, and others need much more. But the vast majority need around 7 hours of sleep. The CDC reports:

More than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis, according to a new study in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. This is the first study to document estimates of self-reported healthy sleep duration (7 or more hours per day) for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend that adults aged 18–60 years sleep at least 7 hours each night to promote optimal health and well-being. Sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress.

Many people may think that sleep is not that important to overall health, but this is not correct. In the classic sleep deprivation studies, the rats who were completely sleep deprived died. Yes, died. There were also a whole host of negative effects of sleep deprivation seen in these studies. Moreover, as the CDC reported, numerous studies have linked significant risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease to sleeping less than 7 hours per day.

I have personally seen people hallucinate due to chronic sleep deprivation. Being sleep deprived and driving makes someone as impaired as if they are intoxicated, and I have told all my patients to NEVER drive or do any other hazardous activity if sleepy. It can be very dangerous. (Yes, yes, I didn't listen to my own advice during my residency training but...)

But, it's so hard to fit in enough sleep with everything we have to do.

Yes, that may be true, but just as it would be very hard for us to go for long without eating, we must have the same attitude with getting enough sleep. It is very important to an overall healthy lifestyle, and it will go a long way to do your body and self a world of good.

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