As you fight to get going every morning, you might think, ‘So what if I don’t get enough sleep? That’s basically the whole experience of adulthood, right?’ Although lack of sleep and its effects are shockingly common in the United States, you still have plenty of reason to attend to it. Poor sleep is tied to so many short-term problems and chronic health issues.
Bad sleep habits could be ruining your life in 10 different ways without you being aware of the cause of any of them. Fortunately, improving your sleep doesn’t have to take a long time or a ton of work. Looking at how inadequate sleep affects your daily function and health can give you the incentive to get it under control.
Once you fall into a habit of inadequate sleep, it may start to feel like life. Slipping into unhealthy sleep patterns can happen in as little as a week or two. You know that you are struggling to get good sleep when you notice these symptoms:
The presence of these symptoms can change with age, activity and overall health. The longer you stick to a bad pattern, the more likely you’ll keep picking up symptoms.
Contrary to popular belief, insufficient sleep can happen regardless of the time you actually spend in bed. If you hit the sack six hours before you wake up, it’s easy to tell that you are not getting enough sleep. People who go to bed at 10:00 and wake up at 7:00 may also be suffering from poor sleep.
The difference is quality vs. quantity. Someone who sleeps like a rock for seven hours may be getting better sleep than a person who gets ten hours of interrupted rest. In fact, sleep that is frequently interrupted may be the reason people feel like they need more sleep. This is why it’s important to pay attention to the cause. Staying in bed longer often isn’t the most effective solution.
Inadequate sleep is a big problem for American adults. More than one in three adults gets less than seven hours on a regular basis. About 60 million have a sleep disorder. Common causes can be broadly divided into behaviors and health conditions. Behaviors that influence sleep include:
Besides habits, people may encounter health-related concerns that affect their ability to sleep, such as:
Considering the causes helps people to determine if they have troublesome habits that make good rest more difficult, or if they should consult a doctor about health issues influencing sleep quality.
Like many other issues you may have to deal with, poor sleep gets worse the longer it lasts. Even one night of bad sleep can create the following effects:
The approximately 5% of adults who say they nod off while driving once a month can tell you that getting behind the wheel while drowsy may be deadly. Researchers found that people who are sleep deprived make decisions about as well as people who are drunk.
If the immediate effects aren’t enough to get your attention, there’s a whole host of long-term health problems that you could develop if you are chronically sleep-deprived:
Insufficient sleep presents a multi-faceted attack on your health. If you’re already at risk for these conditions due to genetics, age, physical health or other factors, poor sleep increases your chances. If you already have one or more of them, inadequate sleep can make it harder to manage. Treating sleep as one of the most important things in your life may improve your long-term health in ways you could not have imagined.
The idea that adults are supposed to be tired all the time is practically baked into our culture. People grab a latte on their way to work and a Monster in the afternoon. This can make it harder to know what adequate sleep looks like. Simply put, good sleep is what you need to feel rested and refreshed when you first wake up. It can be more difficult to determine if you have chronic health problems that lower your sleep quality, or nighttime medications that make you feel groggy when you wake.
Most adults need around 7-9 hours per night on a consistent basis. This doesn’t mean that sleeping seven hours one night and nine hours the next counts as healthy rest. Your body works best on a routine that you can follow seven days a week. Try out different sleep routines to see how you feel. Keep in mind that adjusting your sleep schedule can take a few weeks to notice benefits. You will know that you have a good balance when you’re comfortably waking up at the same time every day and feeling less reliant on that first cup of coffee.
As anyone with insomnia can tell you, there’s more to sleep than just heading to bed at the right time. If you’re sleeping badly on a regular basis, you may need to change your entire approach to get to the level of sleep quality you need. Think about the various aspects of your sleep environment, and consider the following:
If you have a common condition like Obstructive Sleep Apnea that affects sleep quality, you may have a variety of treatment options to manage it. Many people with OSA benefit from using a sleep apnea mouthpiece to hold open their airway and cut down on the number of sleep interruptions.
Poor sleep causes so many problems that ignoring it may seem nonsensical. The right solution could mean the difference between life and death for you and the people around you. At Premier Sleep Associates, our dental sleep medicine experts can help you make noticeable improvements to your sleep quality. Schedule a consultation or contact us at (425) 698-1732.