By Marc Schogol, Pure Matters
Get out of bed, sleepy head.
That old song was about a different time. In this 24/7 world, we have a different problem: We get too little sleep, not too much.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), at least 40 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders each year, with an additional 20 million having occasional sleep problems. Sleep deprivation can contribute to life-threatening obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease, doctors say. Too little sleep can also harm our mental and physical abilities and cause injuries -- even death -- in highway and workplace accidents. Drivers who are fatigued cause about 100,000 vehicular accidents and 1,500 deaths each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night. If you don't get enough sleep over several nights, your need for sleep increases, according to the NINDS. Eventually, your body will force you to make up for the lack of sleep. Even if you think you function fine with less sleep, your judgment and reaction time are affected.
How do you know if you are sleep deprived? According to the NINDS, you aren't getting enough sleep if you feel drowsy during the day, and if you fall asleep within five minutes of lying down.
Getting the right amount of sleep is just as important to our health as diet and exercise. Many people would agree in theory but still do not get enough sleep on a regular basis. There also may be the macho perception that if you're motivated and want to get ahead, you can learn to get along with less sleep than experts say you should get.
Modern culture also has an impact. All sorts of things keep us away from sleep, like television or the Internet. Plus we have demands on our time and extend our work time to unusual hours, leading people to choose to stay up longer and sleep less.
It's a bad choice. People have to realize that sleep is one of the body's essential needs. Choose to do more things that promote sleep, and avoid things that interfere with sleep.