Wake Up America! You Need Your Sleep!

Based off data from a national sleep survey, conducted by SleepScore, Americans had a visceral reaction to the 2016 election. Across all America, people experienced a drastic spike in stress levels, as well as a significant drop in sleep time. However, America’s reaction to the election is only a glimpse at a very real problem that is only getting worse. Simply stated, America needs sleep. Michael Breus, PhD, who’s a clinical psychologist and both a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, says that the SleepScore survey results simply highlight the fact that America has developed bad sleeping habits and therefore struggles with stressful situations.

In recognition of National Public Sleeping Day on February 28th, we need to acknowledge America’s need for rest. Below outlines all the ways in which sleep deprivation negatively affects a person’s overall health.

Anti-Sleep Culture in School and Work

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that sleep, or rather the lack thereof, is a public health crisis. People simply aren’t getting the sleep that they need. While this may be due to bad habits, it may also be the cultural mindset that encourages fewer hours of sleep. Society negatively perceives sleep as a distraction from what’s more important. Additionally, like other social stigmas, such as addiction, obesity, and mental illness, the collective unconscious categorizes sleep as a moral weakness. This psychological mindset has dangerous physiological consequences.

In college, many students adopt the notion that they have to choose two of the three: sleep, a social life, or academics. More often than not, students sacrifice sleep so that they can study or hangout with their friends. Similarly, the workplace promotes this anti-sleep ideology. Within in some professions, the need for sleep connotes a weakness. Take the military for instance. For some branches of the military, practicing controlled sleep deprivation is routine. Additionally, the military issues anti-sleep drugs like amphetamines and modafinil to some soldiers, such as pilots. These drugs enable them to stay awake for prolong periods of time.

Aside from the military, other professions are also guilty of negatively affecting an individual’s sleep. In particular, jobs with excessive travel oftentimes cause jet lag and thereby circadian rhythm disruption. Essentially, circadian rhythms are the body’s “internal clock.” Constantly changing shifts, having irregular shifts, or being on-call also disturb the body’s internal regulator for sleeping patterns. When the body deviates from circadian rhythms, it affects the quality and quantity of sleep. Recently, studies, regarding circadian rhythms, have pushed for delayed start times in middle and high school since sleep deprivation drastically affects adolescent development.

Sleep Duration Is Associated with Depression

This anti-sleep culture largely contributes to the decline in mental health within America. Published in the Anxiety and Depression Association of America journal, as well as another study published in the Sleep journal, there’s a correlation between sleep and depression. In particular, sleep duration significantly increases the risk of depression. The results indicated that incidences of depression were higher among those who slept less than 6 hours or more than 8 hours. As depression and anxiety are closely intertwined, sleep deprivation amplifies the already high anxiety among Americans. According to the (ADAA), nearly half of those diagnosed with depression also have an anxiety disorder – a disability from which 18% of the population suffer.

Sleep Deprivation Affects Heart Health

In a study conducted by the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), researchers examined 20 participants after a 24-hour work shift. Following the 24-hours, the researchers conducted several medical tests. They reported that the participants showed significant increases in blood pressure and heart rate, as well as systolic strain. High levels of stress hormones were also evident among the participants. Ultimately, this experiment revealed the effects of short-term sleep loss on heart health. As for long-term effects, researchers will need to perform additional studies.

Insufficient Sleep Is Connected to Obesity

Moreover, studies prove that a lack of sleep contributes to weight gain. When bad sleeping habits disturb circadian rhythms, studies show that it has bad influence on the foods we choose to eat. Not only on food choices, but it also impacts metabolism and thus appetite. In other words, sleep loss causes fluctuating eating patterns, which leads to obesity. Several studies prove that sleep affects the temporal distribution of caloric intake. Moreover, when individuals develop bad sleeping habits early during childhood and adolescents, it can have serious lifelong consequences.

Lack of Sleep Increases Chances of Accident

Sleep deprivation contributes largely to one of the leading causes of death in America – accidents. After conducting a study, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says that sleeping six to eight hours a night reduces the chance of an accident. According to the study, sleeping less than 5 hours in a 24-hour time period doubles the likelihood of an accident. The National Department of Transportation estimates that driving while tired contributes to about 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 nonfatal injuries every year in the United States. Research shows that those with only 4 or 5 hours of sleep have significantly higher crash rates – so much so that it’s almost the equivalent of driving drunk.

Not only does sleep deprivation increase the likelihood of car accidents, but it also increases workplace accidents. The transportation industry has definitely recognized the adverse effect that not sleeping has on employees, especially recently. In 2014, a New York City derailment led to the death of 4 people. Similarly, a NJ Transit commuter train crashed last year on September 29, 2016, killing one and injuring many. Just this month on January 4, 2017, a train engineer, suffering from undiagnosed sleep apnea, nodded off at the wheel causing an accident that injured around 103 passengers; luckily, no one died. In all these tragic incidences, the engineer fell asleep. Now, the National Transportation Safety Board is implementing sleep apnea testing for all engineers. In addition, the US Senate is calling for a comprehensive review of this implementation.

Inadequate Sleep Hurts the Economy

Insufficient sleep not only affects the well-being of US citizens, but it also negatively impacts society as a whole. Studies have tied too little sleep to poor academic performance, and now they’ve linked sleep to the economy. In an analysis published by the RAND Corporation, the US lost significant economic revenue. Compared to other industrialized countries like the UK, Japan, Germany, and Canada, the US ranked the highest for economic losses due to sleep deprivation. The RAND Report recorded a $411 billion/year loss in the US economy because employees are sleep deprived. As a result of being exhausted and subsequently ill, employees are less productive and incur more healthcare costs. In addition, employees are calling in sick more often. Because of this growing issue within the workplace, the US collectively loses 1.2 million working days every year.

Sleep Initiatives

The RAND Report results received a lot of media attention since publication. Subsequently, initiatives to improve America’s sleeping problem are growing. Among those initiatives is Big Health, which has deployed its online sleep therapy, Sleepio, to 1 million workers at 20 different employers. Some of the employers include Boston Medical Center, LinkedIn, Oxford University, Comcast, etc. Many companies are also providing their employees with Sense devices. Sense is a sleep-monitoring gadget, developed by the startup Hello. Just this week, the 28-Day Sleep Revolution Challenge – based on Arianna Huffington’s best seller “The Sleep Revolution” – kicked off. Essentially, the challenge prompts people to get at least 7-hours of sleep every night.

Similarly, Aetna incentivizes sleep by offering cash bonuses to the employees that sleep seven hours a night. With Aetna being a core insurance carrier, Empower Brokerage is proud to work with a company that prioritizes its employees in addition to its large client base. For quotes on Aetna products, call us today – (844) 410-1320.

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