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Inadequate Sleep Linked to Injury and Illness


It is estimated that 50-70 million adults in the United States have chronic sleep difficulties. Insufficient quality sleep can lead to many health concerns, including chronic disease, limitations in daily functioning and injury. During National Sleep Awareness Week, March 7th through the 13th, the National Sleep Foundation encourages all Americans to take steps toward getting adequate sleep each night.

Sleepiness Contributes to Traffic Accidents and Difficulty Performing Everyday Tasks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released two large health studies linking sleep impairment to poor health in the March 4th issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). In the first analysis, researchers used data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) conducted in 2009. Over 74,000 adults from 12 states responded to the survey, with 35.3% stating that they had had less than 7 hours of sleep on average per night. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that healthy adults need at least 7 to 9 hours each night.

Almost 38% of responded reported unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least once during the preceding month. Nearly 5% said they had nodded off or fallen asleep while driving. “Drowsy Driving” is responsible for an estimated 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 nonfatal injuries annually in the US, per the CDC.

Read: Less than Six Hours Sleep Per Night Raises Colon Cancer Risk

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Compared with employed adults, those unable to work were significantly more likely to report fewer hours of sleep. Other groups less likely to sleep well were adults with at least some college education; divorced, widowed, or separated adults, and persons aged less than 65 years.

Insufficient sleep also impacts the ability of adults to carry out daily activities. A second analysis, with data from the 2005-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), finds that short sleep duration and chronic sleep loss leads to difficulty concentrating and worsened memory. Difficulty in performing employed or volunteer work and inability to take care of financial affairs was reported by almost 10% of all respondents who slept less than 7 hours per night.

Read: Many Unusual Environmental Factors Contribute to Obesity

Actually, inadequate sleep is not limited to Americans. Another recent study by the Economic and Social Research Council found that one in eight Brits also suffer from sleep deprivation, getting less than six hours of sleep per night.

Promoting sleep health is a goal of “Healthy People 2020”. The CDC offers the following tips to improve sleep quantity and quality:
• Keep a regular sleep schedule.
• Avoid stimulating activities within 2 hours of bedtime.
• Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol in the evening.
• Avoid going to bed on a full or empty stomach.
• Sleep in a dark, quite, well-ventilated space with a comfortable temperature.
• See your healthcare provider about health conditions that lead to inadequate sleep such as snoring and restless legs syndrome.