Happy Healthy Hump Day – Who Needs Sleep?

Posted: May 17, 2017  

Bobbi here again. Today, I am going to share about sleep. Like nutrition and physical activity, sleep is a critical determinant of health and well-being. As a working wife and mother of two active elementary school aged children, a good night’s sleep is something I only daydream about.

Poor sleep health is a common problem with 25 percent of U.S. adults reporting insufficient sleep or rest at least 15 out of every 30 days. The public health burden of chronic sleep loss and sleep disorders, coupled with low awareness of poor sleep health among the general population, health care professionals, and policymakers, necessitates a well-coordinated strategy to improve sleep-related health.

Sleep is a basic requirement for infant, child, and adolescent health and development. Sleep loss and untreated sleep disorders influence basic patterns of behavior that negatively affect family health and interpersonal relationships. Fatigue and sleepiness can reduce productivity and increase the chance for mishaps such as medical errors and motor vehicle or industrial accidents.

Adequate sleep is necessary to:

  • Fight off infection
  • Support the metabolism of sugar to prevent diabetes
  • Perform well in school
  • Work effectively and safely

Sleep timing and duration affect a number of endocrine, metabolic, and neurological functions that are critical to the maintenance of individual health. If left untreated, sleep disorders and chronic short sleep are associated with an increased risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • All-cause mortality

The odds of being a short sleeper (defined as someone who sleeps less than 6 hours a night) in the United States have increased significantly over the past 30 years. Competition between sleep schedules, employment, and lifestyle is a recent trend. Intermittent sleep disturbances due to lifestyle choices are associated with temporary fatigue, disorientation, and decreased alertness.

Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), which includes sleep apnea, is another serious threat to health. SDB is characterized by intermittent airway obstruction or pauses in breathing. People with untreated SDB have 2 to 4 times the risk of heart attack and stroke. Obesity is a significant risk factor for SDB, and weight loss is associated with a decrease in SDB severity.

SDB in Children: African American children are at least twice as likely to develop SDB than children of European descent. The risk of SDB during childhood is associated with low socioeconomic status independent of obesity and other risk factors. Left untreated, SDB in children is associated with difficulties in school, metabolic disorders, and future heart disease risk.

SDB in Older Adults: SDB may affect 20 to 40 percent of older adults and, if left untreated, is associated with a 2- to 3-fold increased risk of stroke and mortality.

Health education and promotion programs can increase awareness of common sleep disorders, such as insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and SDB. Without sleep health education, individuals often prioritize other activities over sleep and accept constant sleepiness and sleep disruption as inevitable.

I get it. I try to prioritize sleep but many times things keep me up. However, I am adamant about my kids getting their recommended sleep for their health today but also so that they can internalize the lifelong habit of a healthy night’s sleep.

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