Sleep. It’s the one thing that too many Americans say they just can’t get enough of. Seventy percent of U.S. adults report that they fail to get enough sleep at least one day per month, and 11 percent say that they fail to get enough sleep nightly. Why is it so challenging for so many to obtain the ideal amount of sleep? What’s hindering our peaceful dozing, and what should you do if you are among those craving more restful nights? The advice that follows aims to help those craving more ZZZs achieve more consistent, peaceful slumber.
How Much Sleep Does the Average Person Need?
What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?
Lacking a few hours of sleep each month may not seem problematic, especially if you generally feel productive on most days; however, your body could be suffering in ways that could exacerbate into something more severe if you don’t make adjustments to your sleep schedule.
The short-term effects of sleep deprivation (which includes missing as few as 1.5 hours of sleep) can consist of:
- Lack of mental sharpness
- Your ability to think, recall, and process information
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Mood changes that can put stress on your interpersonal relationships and increase your likelihood of arguing with those around you
- Feeling less inclined to participate in daily activities or hobbies
- Decreased desire or ability for proper physical fitness
In the most severe cases, drowsy driving accounts for thousands of vehicle crashes, injuries, and fatalities annually.
Why Aren’t You Getting Enough Sleep?
There are several reasons why Americans aren’t getting the necessary number of hours of sleep each night, including:
- Overuse of electronic devices, particularly in the time before bed. Such devices include smartphones, laptops, tablets, and television. When you work or consume digital entertainment at night, the artificial lighting from your device can trick your internal clock and mind into thinking it’s processing daylight, keeping you awake and interfering with your body’s ability to wind down naturally.
- Later bedtimes, but the same awake times. The reasons that people stay awake late often relate to their use of electronic devices and consumption of entertainment. Still, when we push our bodies to stay awake for “just one more episode,” all we’re doing is compacting the amount of time our bodies have to rest and recover before the alarm goes off at 6 a.m.
- Overcommitted Schedules. For busy parents, students committed to extracurricular activities, and employees who work beyond the average eight-hour workday, the scheduling of every hour leads to short evenings at home in which to finish chores, participate in some self-care, and prepare to do it all again the next day. As a result, the days are long, and the nights are too short.
- An Overreliance Upon Caffeine. Many Americans simply do not realize that they aren’t getting enough sleep. They have grown so accustomed to running on caffeine throughout the day in the form of a venti latté, a half-liter of soda or energy drink that they don’t realize they are suppressing messages from their body that it needs more regular and consistent sleep each night.
When to Ask for Help
If you often find yourself struggling to concentrate at work and have difficulty getting through the day without caffeine, but don’t know how to improve your relationship with your sleep schedule, talk to your doctor. They can help you understand the lifestyle factors impacting your sleep schedule and recommend a plan to help you overcome your challenges and start drifting off into peaceful sleep night-after-night.