Health Topics

Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

Without adequate sleep, mental and physical health can suffer.

There are more than 100 million Americans of all ages who are not getting adequate sleep. Inadequate sleep can have negative consequences on school and work performance, interpersonal relationships, health and safety.

How Much Sleep is Necessary?

Experts generally recommend that adults sleep at least 7 ½ to 8 hours per night, although some people require more and some less.

A National Sleep Foundation poll found that adults (age 18-54) sleep an average of 6.8 hours per night on weekdays and 7.4 hours on weekends. The poll showed a downward trend in sleep time over the past several years. People sleeping less often use the internet at night or bring work home from the office. Sleep loss can lead to daytime sleepiness that adversely affects performance.

The National Sleep Foundation also reported that older adults (age 55-84) average 7 hours of sleep on weekdays and 7.1 hours on weekends. Sleep is most often disturbed by the need to use the bathroom and physical pain or discomfort in older adults.

A downward trend in sleep time has also been observed in children. Optimal sleep time varies by age. An earlier Sleep in America poll found a discrepancy between recommended and actual sleep time in children, with actual sleep time 1.5 to 2 hours less than recommended. Caffeine consumption caused a loss of 3 to 5 hours of sleep a week, and having a television in the bedroom contributed to a loss of 2 hours of sleep each week in children.

What Happens When a Person Does Not Get Enough Sleep?

Not getting the proper amount or quality of sleep leads to more than just feeling tired. Sleepiness interferes with cognitive function, which can lead to learning disabilities in children, memory impairment in people of all ages, personality changes and depression.

People suffering from sleep deprivation experience difficulty making decisions, irritability, problems with performance and slower reaction times, which places them at risk for automobile and work-related accidents. Sleep loss can also adversely affect life by contributing to the development of:

  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • heart disease

If you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or if you feel sleepy or unenergetic despite a seemingly adequate night of sleep, you may have a sleeping disorder. There are more than 80 disorders of sleep and wakefulness. Talk to your doctor to learn more and see if you are suffering from a sleep disorder.

For more information on sleeping problems, download our free Sleep Treatment Guide.