According to the National Sleep Foundation approximately 1/3 of Americans are chronically sleep deprived. This sleep deprivation can be linked to things like daytime sleepiness and irritability as well as memory loss and the inability to concentrate. This can affect our day to day activities and make things like driving more dangerous than they have to bed.
It also had a strong effect on our weight. When we are sleep deprived we tend to eat more at a meal and we tend to eat more often to try and get over our fatigue. This contributes to obesity. It is something that is very common especially in night shift workers who usually only get 4-5 hours of sleep a day.
Sleep deprivation has also been associated with heart disease and early mortality. The thought is that the stress caused from the lack of sleep on our body contributes to these issues.
Why do so many people believe they can go without sleep? Many people do not understand the necessity of sleep for their body. Sleep allows people to reset their brain and health their body. They also do not understand that they will not feel tired if they are over stimulated or over exposed to light, two problems we have in the computer age.
How do you determine if you have a sleep issues? If you have health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease that takes more than 1 medication to control you might want to look at your sleep habits. If you have depression, daytime fatigue or fall asleep as soon as you get home these are good signs that you might want to go to bed a little bit earlier. Sometimes if we have an increase in our appetite although we have not changed our habits it can be a sign that we are actually tired.
The best way to evaluate if you really have a sleep issue is to do a two week sleep diary. This can be simple notebook that has the time you go to bed and the time you wake up in it. You should also include how much caffeine you have had during the day, any exercise you did any unusual activities such as parties or cleaning the garage. Looking at the patterns of sleep over two weeks can give you an idea if you problem is as simple as you do not have a regular bed time or that the television is keeping you awake or it can tell you if maybe it is time to talk to your doctor.
There are some people who may be able to get by on less sleep but if you want to stay healthy, and be alert getting 7-9 hours of sleep should be your goal. It may take some small changes in your daily habits but in the end the health benefits are worth it.