Sleep Awareness and Health


The importance of  Sleep
to health, cognition and longevity

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Sleep & Sleep Disorders Series

Sleep and Sleep Disorders

A quick gander at June’s Awareness Calendar tells you that the  first week in June is Sleep Disorders Awareness Week.

I have already written a great deal about sleep and sleep disorders, but I couldn’t let the month pass without adding an Awareness post to that Series.

According NSART, the National Sleep Awareness Roundtable, promoting the awareness of the importance of sleep is an extremely worthwhile endeavor.

About SLEEP

NOT the passive state once believed, sleep is a highly active state essential for both physical health and BRAIN health.

Although we all do it, few of us know very much about it – and fewer still make sure we get enough of it to drive our brains and bodies effectively, limping along with chronic sleep debt.

Many of us would LOVE to get more sleep, but struggle falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping in sync with norms that allow us to coordinate with the timing demands of our chronically busy 21st Century lives.

NIH, the National Institutes of Health estimates that sleep-related problems affect 50 to 70 million Americans alone, common in both men and women and people of all ethnic groups.

According to the authors of the website Talk About Sleep:

“At least 40 million Americans suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders each year, and an additional 20 million experience occasional sleeping problems.

These disorders and the resulting sleep deprivation interfere with work, driving, and social activities.

They also account for an estimated $16 BILLION in medical costs each year, while the indirect costs due to lost productivity and other factors are probably much greater.”

They go on to say that “the most common sleep disorders include insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and narcolepsy,” which is an indication of how LITTLE research has been done on the chronorhythm disorders – disorders of sleep timing.

But you don’t have to have a diagnostic sleep disorder of any kind to experience the negative effects of sleep debt. In fact, most of us in industrialized societies are chronically under-slept, which means that most of us have racked up sleep debt to a significant degree

Insufficient Sleep is a BIG Problem

The cumulative effects of sleep loss and sleep disorders represent a significantly under-recognized public health concern.

It is associated with a wide range of long-range health problems – all of which represent long-term targets of public health agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):

  • hypertension (abnormally high blood pressure)
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • depression
  • heart attack
  • stroke, and
  • impulsive, at-risk behaviors

In 2008, an organization called Healthy People 2020 met to begin the process of determining 10-year national objectives for promoting health and preventing disease.

They ultimately targeted four main objectives:

  1. Increase the proportion of persons with symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea who seek medical evaluation (only ONE of two types of sleep apnea, btw)
  2. Reduce the rate of vehicular crashes per 100 million miles traveled that are due to drowsy driving
  3. Increase the proportion of students in grades 9 through 12 who get sufficient sleep
  4. Increase the proportion of adults who get sufficient sleep

And it all begins with awareness.

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