Insufficient Sleep: The Public Health Crisis You Haven't Heard Of

Sleep insufficiency is a serious public health concern
— The Centers for Disease Control


Described by scientists as one of the most important and perplexing of all organismic behavior.

This week is all about sleep. Why we need it, what happens when you are sleep deprived, and how much you should be getting.

Before we dive in, take my sleep quiz below. It will tell you if you are getting adequate sleep.

Why We Need Sleep

Sleep is a time for energy — when the body saves energy and when energy resources are restored.

Regulation of vital processes (such as thermoregulation, metabolic regulation, and immune processes) all occur during sleep.

Sleep is for the BRAIN rather than the body.

Without sleep, long-lasting changes such as anxiety, despair, and alcohol dependence can occur.

What Happens When You Are Sleep Deprived?

Acute Sleep Deprivation

Mood changes are one of the most easily recognized consequences of sleep deprivation. Irritability, fatigue, disorientation, perceptual distortions, and hallucinations occur. In fact, sleep deprivation is a known form of torture as paranoid thoughts can occur at 112 hours without sleep.

I can fully attest to mood changes with sleep deprivation! My husband has a word for me when I need to catch more zzz’s — slangy (sleepy + angry; our take on hangry). And one of the biggest rows we ever had was when he came off a 28 hour shift at work.

Less realized is psychomotor impairment. This impairment is often seen when performing tasks that are done without feedback (such as driving). In fact, 6% of Americans aged 35 to 45 admit to nodding off while driving in the last month.


Chronic Sleep Deprivation

Chronic sleep deprivation is considered a major health problem. Cognitive performance decreases as well as your ability to detect your own deficits. Health issues such as obesity, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, depression, decreased immune response, and even increases in cancer can also occur.

Adequate Sleep

So what is adequate sleep? Great question! This is an area that is highly misunderstood.


Adequate Sleep Based on Age

Average hours required each night.

Many of us assume we are extraordinary and can thrive on less than adequate sleep. I am here to tell you it is extremely rare to be a person that thrives on less than recommended amounts of sleep.

Action Time

Now you know how much sleep you ought to get and if you are receiving the appropriate amount.

If you are getting adequate sleep, great job and pat yourself on the back! You are definitely in the minority.

And if you are NOT getting adequate sleep, now is an excellent time to discover why. Grab some paper and make two columns. Take a few minutes and jot down all the reasons you aren’t getting enough in one column. In the second column, list at least one thing you can do to improve each reason. Then commit to one or two things you can start TONIGHT to help you get more sleep.

It is easy to think sleep is less important than other parts of your life, but you must resist! Sleep is a major determinant of health and wellness. Getting adequate sleep not only improves your body, it supports and benefits your mind and mood.

If you have any questions on sleep, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you!

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