In a world where stress levels are rising, exposure to natural sunlight outdoors is diminishing, and technology is leading to constant demands for everybody’s attention, it’s no surprise that so many people struggle to get enough sleep. What does it mean to be “sleep deprived”? What are some of the negative effects of sleep deprivation?
The broad definition of sleep deprivation is “the condition that occurs if you don’t get enough sleep.” The amount of sleep that qualifies as “enough” differs depending on who you ask. But it usually falls between about 7–9 hours per night for adults (and even more for children and teens). However, everyone is a bit different in terms of their ideal amount of sleep. Some need more like 6–10 hours of sleep per night to feel their best. Or, others simply need an extra couple hours of rest on occasion when feeling extra run down.
According to recent research done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 7–19 percent of adults in the United States report regularly lacking sleep or not getting enough rest almost daily. And many more than this struggle with occasional sleep-related disorders or problems including sleep apnea, anxiety or night time pain that interferes with their overall quality of life.
If you’re someone who regularly gets less than the recommended amount of sleep, you’re at a higher risk for many different health problems. This includes health problems that are mentally and physically harmful. These can include: brain fog and fatigue; increased susceptibility to accidents or injuries; loss of productivity at work; irritability and moodiness; relationship problems; and even a greater risk of death due to problems affecting your heart and immune system. As you’ll discover below, some of the best sleep aids to help you get better-quality sleep include adjusting the type of light you’re exposed to daily, managing stressors in your life, making changes to your diet, and establishing a consistent night time routine.
Is Sleep Deprivation an Epidemic Today?
Getting enough sleep is a vital, dynamic part of a healthy lifestyle. The body needs adequate rest each night for a variety of reasons, including:
strengthening the immune system
repairing damaged tissues
maintaining cognitive health
Sleep deprivation and sleep deficiency have much in common. But they are actually considered to be two different conditions in the opinion of some experts. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, “sleep deficiency” is said to occur if you meet one or more of the following qualifications:
You don’t get enough sleep (you experience regular sleep deprivation).
You sleep at the wrong time of day. This may mean not being able to sleep at night, but then taking naps during the day as a result of daytime fatigue. An abnormal sleep schedule is a sign that your body’s “natural clock” is not operating properly.
You don’t get the type of restorative sleep that your body needs. This includes deep REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. REM is the type you need to restore many bodily processes and keep your body in balance.
You have a sleep disorder. Various disorders can keep you from getting enough sleep, such as sleep apnea, insomnia, anxiety disorders or others. These can cause you to struggle to fall asleep, or to periodically wake up throughout the night.
Here are some eye-opening sleep deprivation and sleep deficiency statistics:
Between 50 to 70 million Americans are estimated to have some type of chronic sleep disorder. This is around 1 in every 5 or 6 people.
Approximately 8–18 percent of the general population struggles with insomnia.
Sleep deficiency has been found to be more common among adults between 40–59 than any other age group. Those between the ages of 20–39 are also likely to be suffering from a lack of sleep.
Data from the National Health Interview Survey showed that about 30 percent of adults get on average less than 6 hours of sleep per day. The same study found that only about one-third of high school students report getting at least 8 hours of sleep on school nights.
Around 35 percent of certain survey respondents report getting less than 7 hours of sleep during a typical 24-hour period. Forty-eight percent report snoring. Around 38 percent report “unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least once in the preceding month.” In adults over 65, more than 44 percent say they fall asleep unintentionally somewhat regularly due to fatigue.
About 5 percent of drivers say they occasionally nod off or fall asleep while driving at least once per month. The National Department of Transportation and CDC estimate that “drowsy driving is responsible for 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 nonfatal injuries annually in the United States.“
Sleep Deprivation in Teens & College Students:
Sleep deprivation affects more than just busy, stressed adults. It’s also a growing problem among teenagers and college-aged young adults too. Sleep deprivation negatively affects their performance in school, moods and behaviors.
Some research suggests that college-aged individuals get on average about 6–7 hours of sleep per night. This is due to an “overload of activities” such as studying, socializing, working and staying up late using the internet. What percentage of high school students are sleep deprived? Stanford University researchers have found that up to 87 percent of teens (almost 9 of every 10) are sleep deprived! According to work done by the University of Georgia, students who get six or fewer hours of sleep per night report feeling more tired, stressed and sad. They’re missing out on how adequate sleep “restores our energy, helps us think clearly and creatively, strengthens memory, and produces a more positive mood and better performance throughout the day.”
Causes of Sleep Deprivation
What usually causes sleep deprivation in adults, and how do these causes differ from those in teens or even children? Surveys suggest that sleep deficiency is typically due to the following factors