Do you wake up tired and irritable? Have you ever driven while drowsy? Do you nod off at work? If so, you could suffer from sleep deficiency, and robbing your body of needed rest can be hazardous to your health.
It’s estimated that a third of U.S. adults do not get enough sleep on a regular basis, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that adults aged 18 to 60 years sleep at least seven hours each night for optimal health and well-being.
Here are 10 reasons why sleep matters:
- Sleeping is a basic human need, like eating, drinking and breathing.
- Although the amount of sleep you get each day is important, good sleep quality is also essential. Signs of poor quality include not feeling rested even after getting enough sleep, repeatedly waking up during the night, and experiencing symptoms of disorders (such as snoring or gasping for air).
- If you routinely sleep less than needed, the sleep loss adds up. The total amount lost is called your sleep debt. If you lose two hours of sleep each night, for example, you will have a sleep debt of 14 hours after a week.
- During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development.
- Whether you’re learning math, how to play the piano, how to perfect your golf swing, or how to drive a car, sleep helps enhance your learning and problem-solving skills. Sleep also helps you pay attention, make decisions and be creative.
- Children and teens who are sleep deficient may have problems getting along with others. They may feel angry and impulsive, have mood swings, feel sad or depressed, or lack motivation. They may have problems paying attention and they may get lower grades and feel stressed.
- Sleep is involved in the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels.
- Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don’t get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you’re well-rested.
- Your immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy. This system defends your body against foreign or harmful substances. Ongoing sleep deficiency can change the way in which your immune system responds. For example, if you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble fighting common infections.
- Sleep deficiency can harm your driving ability as much as being drunk. Drowsy drivers are involved in an estimated 21 percent of fatal crashes, and drivers themselves often die in single-car crashes. Sleep deficiency has played a role in human errors linked to nuclear reactor meltdowns, grounding of large ships and aviation accidents.
Sources: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, CDC, National Sleep Foundation, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services