Living Well- Lying Awake? Insufficient sleep in Americans is considered a public health issue

Thelma Grimes/Colorado Community Media
Posted 2/23/18

Are you getting enough sleep? Do you feel rested after you sleep? If statistics are any indication, you are


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Living Well- Lying Awake? Insufficient sleep in Americans is considered a public health issue


Are you getting enough sleep? Do you feel rested after you sleep? If statistics are any indication, you are


Dr. Kevin Swartz, an ear, nose and throat specialist at Swedish Medical Center who is board certified in sleep medicine, said insufficient sleep in America has really become a public health issue over the last decade.

“In fact, it has long been identified in the sleep academic community and by public safety entities to be a serious issue,” Swartz said.

Recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that greater than a third of American adults,an estimated 35.2 percent, are clinically sleep deprived, which means they are getting less than seven hours of sleep per night on average.

Adults aren’t the only ones causing a public health concern. The CDC also released new data on how middle and high school students are not getting enough sleep. According to the report, an estimated 58 percent of middle school students and 73 percent of high school

students are getting insufficient sleep.

“The primary effect on adolescents is in learning, memory and behavior,” Swartz said. “Sleep deprivation has been linked to poor school performance, behavioral issues and increased motor vehicle accidents. Studies

have shown that eating habits favoring sugar,processed foods and fats are associated with sleep deprivation. Psychological illness such as depression, anxiety and increased risk of attempted suicide are also higher.”

Describing adults as “grown-up adolescents,”

Swartz said sleep deprivation can have the

same negative impact on their lives.

“Adults experience similar issues with

reduced memory, task initiation and management,

and cognitive performance. In addition,

there are strong associations with depression and anxiety,” he said. “Finally, chronic disease both becomes more likely and, if present, more difficult to treat in this population.”

Swartz said the causes for insufficient sleep are all over the place from being busy to technology to health issues.

“Obviously, our modern lifestyle of trying to fit too many things into our 24-hour day are to blame,” he said. “But also, things like staring at blue screens, eating poorly, not exercising and stress can contribute to insomnia, which will ultimately shorten our sleep duration leading to deprivation.”

Insufficient sleep could also be due to what a person does for a living. Swartz said shift workers suffer from constantly shifting sleep wake times that can ultimately lead to reduced sleep duration.

Sleep deprivation is no laughing matter. In fact, Swartz said not getting enough sleep could lead to anything from a heart attack or stroke, to increasing a person’s risk of being obese and developing coronary artery disease, asthma, COPD, chronic kidney disease, depression, arthritis and cancer.

Many of the most common causes of insufficient sleep can be addressed without having to see a medical professional. Swartz stressed that sleep must be “habitual,” which means sticking to a schedule, making sleep an even bigger priority than exercise, eating well and managing stress.

The CDC recommends getting more than seven hours of quality, restful sleep per night. To really make that happen, it might mean getting to sleep well before midnight, which means reducing stimulations such as bright lights, laptops, television, mobile phone and

heated conversations at least 30 minutes prior to sleep.

“Being a good sleeper starts with what is done during the day,” Swartz said. “Diet, exercise, management of stressors are all key for the set up to healthy sleeping. Healthy habits are a great way to coin the solution. Creating a routine that supports all the promoters while eliminating the detractors to good sleep is a pathway to success.”

However, Swartz stressed that if a person feels he or she has done all they can to increase duration and still have issues with daytime excessive tiredness, it may be time to talk with a medical professional: Sleep deprivation could be a symptom of a condition or sleep disorder that requires treatment or assistance.


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