Some teenagers seem to sleep a lot. As parents and grandparents, we can find this rather aggravating. But the fact is, as we get older, our sleep patterns may change, and our sleep can be less restful.1 Perhaps it’s a good idea to let young people sleep in peace while they still can.
Scientists say young adults require about nine hours of sleep a day, on average. If they get less than eight hours, they may have a harder time paying attention. Full-grown adults, on the other hand, need an average of seven and a half hours. Unfortunately, studies show about one-third of adults in Western societies get less than that on a regular basis.2
A recent study by the University of Zurich and the University Hospital Zurich found a correlation between chronic lack of sleep and increased risk-seeking behavior. Scientists trace the link to the brain’s right prefrontal cortex, which is directly connected with higher risk-seeking behavior. The researchers theorize that when a person persistently does not get enough sleep, this area of the brain does not recover properly, which prompts behavioral changes. Interestingly, the researchers found that study subjects did not notice they engaged in riskier behaviors and therefore were not cognizant of this relationship with sleep patterns.3
The study’s authors observed that sound sleep, of the appropriate duration, is critical for good decision making — especially for political and economic leaders whose daily decisions impact the larger society.4 This advice is also worth pursuing in our own lives. In other words, avoid making important decisions when you haven’t been sleeping well.
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Although we often hear that everyone needs a full eight hours of sleep each night, the actual amount varies by individual — usually between seven and nine hours.5 Just one night of insufficient sleep can make us cranky and too tired for healthy activities — like engaging in exercise or preparing a nutritious meal.6
Over time, sleep deprivation can increase the risk of developing a variety of chronic health problems, including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. It may make us more vulnerable to getting sick when exposed to a cold virus. Chronic lack of sleep also can make us more susceptible to experiencing depression and anxiety.7
Women are 40 percent more likely to suffer from insomnia or symptoms of insomnia compared to men, but the reasons for this are unclear. Some researchers hypothesize that women’s traditional role in society as caregivers could be a contributing factor. Furthermore, single parents who serve as both caregivers and financial providers are at higher risk of insomnia. Some scientists speculate the sleep circuitry for women could be different from men and, when combined with social roles as both worker and caregiver, this may result in a higher risk for sleep disorders.8
While the length and quality of sleep is a personal matter, it cumulatively has an impact on the economy. According to a study by RAND Europe, the United States loses approximately $411 billion a year due to workers who sleep less than six hours a night — which represents around 2.28 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. However, if those poor sleepers got one extra hour of sleep each night, the data suggests about $226.4 billion could be added back to the economy.9
Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.
1 National Sleep Foundation. “Aging and Sleep.” https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/aging-and-sleep. Accessed Dec. 29, 2017.
2 ScienceDaily. Aug. 28, 2017. “Chronic lack of sleep increases risk-seeking.” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170828102725.htm. Accessed Dec. 19, 2017.
5 William Kormos, M.D. Harvard Medical School. May 2016. “Ask the Doctor: The right amount of sleep.” https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/ask-the-doctor-right-amount-of-sleep. Accessed Dec. 19, 2017.
6 Julie Corliss. Harvard Medical School. July 2017. “The health hazards of insufficient sleep.” https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-health-hazards-of-insufficient-sleep. Accessed Dec. 19, 2017.
8 MedicalXpress. Dec. 18, 2017. “New guide aims to unmask unique challenges women face in getting healthy sleep.” https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-12-aims-unmask-unique-women-healthy.html. Accessed Dec. 19, 2017.
9 Sandee LaMotte. CNN. Sept. 27, 2017. “Sacrificing sleep? Here’s what it will do to your health.” http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/19/health/dangers-of-sleep-deprivation/index.html. Accessed Dec. 19, 2017.
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