We are a society so used to sleep deprivation that we don’t even recognize what a huge problem this is, nor do we consider the consequences which may include maintaining alertness, lack of energy, impaired mood and trouble handling stress. Lack of sleep due to pain or discomfort can also put you at risk for injury, poor health and accidents. When you’re tossing and turning at night, do you ever wonder if you’re the only one having difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep? Unfortunately, you’re not alone.
For Millions, Sleeplessness Is a Fact of Life Pain and Sleep
A study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation reports that 20% of Americans (over 42 million people) lose a lot of sleep due to physical discomfort or pain. It is a problem that many people don’t recognize as a major problem that can cause a host of consequences.
Prevalence of Sleep Difficulty
In 2002, the National Sleep Foundation commissioned an extensive “Sleep in America” poll to understand how well adults in the U.S. sleep. Overall, the poll showed that a clear majority of people surveyed—74% of the respondents—experienced a symptom of sleep disorder a few nights a week or more.
• 51% of people surveyed for the 2005 Sleep In America poll said they get a good night’s sleep only a few times a week.
• Regularly sleeping just less than 2 hrs. than normal impairs your judgment and reaction time to same extent as a blood alcohol level of 0.12. This is 50% higher than the level most states say drivers are inebriated.
• 20% of American adults – that’s 42 million people report that pain or physical discomfort disrupts their sleep a few nights a week or more.
Symptoms of Insomnia Include:
• Difficulty falling asleep
• Waking up frequently during the night
• Waking up too early and not getting back to sleep
• Waking up feeling unrested
58% of people surveyed reported some or all of the above traits of insomnia at least a few nights a week, and more than 1 of every 3 (35%) have had one of these symptoms nearly every night during the past year.
That means over half of the U.S. population lacks one of the primary building blocks of physical, mental, and emotional health - a good night’s sleep.
People experiencing insomnia symptoms are aware of the negative impact - 90% of those surveyed believe that not getting enough sleep can, indeed, lead to health problems.
Insomnia Affects You at Night and During the Day
• More than 90% of people in the survey view lack of sleep as an impairment to their work performance.
• 85% say it has negative effects on their ability to get along with others.
• A significant number (37%) reported that daytime sleepiness gets in the way of their daily activities a few days a month or more, and 16% said that sleepiness interferes with their activities at least several days a week.
Losing Sleep Can Be Hazardous to Your Health
When you have trouble sleeping, you may notice that you have additional difficulty staying alert the next day. Not only is insomnia a nuisance, but it can lead to potentially harmful results.
According to the National Sleep Foundation poll, lack of sleep can result in a higher incidence of emotional distress and dissatisfaction. People in the survey who slept 6 or fewer hours on weeknights were more likely to report feeling sad, stressed, and angry on a typical day, as compared with those who said they slept 8 or more hours on weeknights.
Impacts Work Performance
• 90% of people surveyed agreed that not getting enough sleep could put them at risk for injuries at work as well as negatively effect general performance and health
• Nearly 70% of people noted that not getting enough sleep the previous night would make reading business documents more difficult
• 62% said that listening carefully would be much or somewhat harder
• Impacts Driver Safety
• Fatigue plays a role in over 100,000 police-reported highway accidents, leading to 1,500 deaths each year in the United States alone, according to the National Sleep Foundation
• About half of survey respondents noted that they have driven a car or other vehicle while feeling drowsy
• 17% admitted to dozing off while behind the wheel
What Happens When You Sleep?
When we sleep well, we wake up feeling refreshed and alert for our daily activities. Sleep affects how we look, feel and perform on a daily basis, and can have a major impact on our overall quality of life.
To get the most out of our sleep, both quantity and quality are important. Teens need at least 8½ hours—and on average 9¼ hours—a night of uninterrupted sleep to leave their bodies and minds rejuvenated for the next day. If sleep is cut short, the body doesn’t have time to complete all of the phases needed for muscle repair, memory consolidation and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite. Then we wake up less prepared to concentrate, make decisions, or engage fully in school and social activities.
How Does Sleep Contribute to All of These Things?
Sleep architecture follows a pattern of alternating REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep throughout a typical night in a cycle that repeats itself about every 90 minutes.
What role does each state and stage of sleep play?
NREM (75% of night): As we begin to fall asleep, we enter NREM sleep, which is composed of stages 1-4
* Between being awake and falling asleep
* Light sleep
* Onset of sleep
* Becoming disengaged from surroundings
* Breathing and heart rate are regular
* Body temperature drops (so sleeping in a cool room is helpful)
Stages 3 and 4
* Deepest and most restorative sleep
* Blood pressure drops
* Breathing becomes slower
* Muscles are relaxed
* Blood supply to muscles increases
* Tissue growth and repair occurs
* Energy is restored
* Hormones are released, such as: Growth hormone, essential for growth and development, including muscle development
(25% of night): First occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep and recurs about every 90 minutes, getting longer later in the night
* Provides energy to brain and body
* Supports daytime performance
* Brain is active and dreams occur
* Eyes dart back and forth
* Body becomes immobile and relaxed, as muscles are turned off
In addition, levels of the hormone cortisol dip at bed time and increase over the night to promote alertness in morning.
Sleep helps us thrive by contributing to a healthy immune system, and can also balance our appetites by helping to regulate levels of the hormones ghrelin and leptin, which play a role in our feelings of hunger and fullness. So when we’re sleep deprived, we may feel the need to eat more, which can lead to weight gain.
The one-third of our lives that we spend sleeping, far from being “unproductive,” plays a direct role in how full, energetic and successful the other two-thirds of our lives can be.