“Eight hours for work, eight hours for sleep, and eight hours for what you will.” – Benjamin Franklin
Last week, the Center for Disease Control published the results of a study of the sleep habits of Americans in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The study showed that one third of American adults between the ages of 18 and 60 do not get enough sleep on a regular basis. The study showed that many of the 444,306 respondents not only didn’t sleep enough, but weren’t sure of how much sleep they needed or the impact of that a lack of sleep can have on their mental and physical wellness. In their summary of their results, the CDC pointed out that sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk in developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, stroke, and mental health problems. If Benjamin Franklin knew this 250 years ago, why is it that so many Americans are ill informed about rest, sleep, and the impact that it has on our well-being?
Wayne Giles, director of the CDC’s Division of Population Health, gives a hint as to where the problem is coming from. He points out that, “Lifestyle changes such as going to bed at the same time each night, rising at the same time each morning, and turning off or removing televisions, computers, and mobile devices from the bedroom can help people get the healthy sleep that they need.” Perhaps these devices are the shiny objects that distract Americans from sleep and have taken priority over our desire to sleep. Maybe living in an age of too much information has distracted us from a basic, yet necessary, human activity.
Here are the key findings of the CDC’s study:
⦁ Healthy sleep duration was lower among Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders (54 percent), non-Hispanic blacks (54 percent), multiracial non-Hispanics (54 percent) and American Indians/Alaska Natives (60 percent) compared with non-Hispanic whites (67 percent), Hispanics (66 percent), and Asians (63 percent).
⦁ The prevalence of healthy sleep duration varied among states and ranged from 56 percent in Hawaii to 72 percent in South Dakota.
⦁ A lower proportion of adults reported getting at least seven hours of sleep per day in states clustered in the southeastern region of the United States and the Appalachian Mountains. Previous studies have shown that these regions also have the highest prevalence of obesity and other chronic conditions.
⦁ People who reported they were unable to work or were unemployed had lower healthy sleep duration (51 percent and 60 percent, respectively) than did employed respondents (65 percent). The prevalence of healthy sleep duration was highest among people with a college degree or higher (72 percent).
⦁ The percentage reporting a healthy sleep duration was higher among people who were married (67 percent) compared with those who were never married (62 percent) or divorced, widowed, or separated (56 percent).
The study went on to conclude that getting less than seven hours sleep per night not only is associated with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and stroke, but also can be a factor in mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. It is also assumed to play a major role in early death. “People have to recognize that sleep is just as important as what they’re eating and how much they’re exercising,” said Dr. Shalini Paruthi, co-director of the Sleep Medicine and Research Center at St. Luke’s Hospital in St. Louis. “It’s one of the pillars of good health.”
The CDC has recommendations for all of us to follow to combat this health problem:
⦁ Healthcare providers should routinely assess patients’ sleep patterns and discuss sleep-related problems such as snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness.
⦁ Healthcare providers should also educate patients about the importance of sleep to their health.
⦁ Individuals should make getting enough sleep a priority and practice good sleep habits.
⦁ Employers can consider adjusting work schedules to allow their workers time to get enough sleep.
⦁ Employers can also educate their shift workers about how to improve their sleep.
There are a variety of reasons why people routinely sleep less than the recommended amount of seven hours. Many don’t even realize the role that their lifestyle plays in their lack of sleep. Conversations at work tend to revolve around information that Americans glean from television and the computer. Television shows like Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, and other visual junk food tends to keep people up late at night and make it difficult for them to fall asleep when they finally lay down. This behavior is also associated with a sedentary lifestyle and poor food choices – things that lead to obvious health problems.
Others take a type of pride in their ability to “get by on less than X amount of hours of sleep.” These people tend to be driven, motivated, and workaholic. Yes, you can “get by” on brief amounts of sleep, but should you? Shouldn’t this be something that you do occasionally when work or life presents a crisis rather than something that you do on a regular basis?
A happy and fulfilled life is all about balance. The advice the Benjamin Franklin gave almost 300 years ago is both simple and profound at the same time. Sleep should play an important role in the trifecta of life events – work, rest, and recreation. Not enough of us seem to be paying attention to our sleep, and our health is paying the price. The CDC’s study gives us all plenty to sleep on.
For some how-to articles on obtaining a good nights sleep, use the search box to the right of this article. Pleasant dreams!
“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” – Benjamin Franklin.
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