At least one in three Americans doesn't get enough sleep on a regular basis, but sleep deprivation comes with a heavy price tag! No matter how well you may think you are adapting to limited sleep, the truth is that a short-sleep schedule will impact your day-to-day functioning and impair your long-term health. So how much sleep is enough? In a standard 24-hour period, infants require 16 hours of sleep, children tend to need 10, teenagers should get 9, and most adults need 7 to 8. Pregnant women, particularly those in the first trimester, may require up to 11 hours of sleep. But doctors agree that the bottom line is, if you feel drowsy during the day, you haven't had enough sleep during the night. In the short term, sleep deprivation can lead to decreased performance and alertness during daily activities. Reducing sleep by just one and a half hours can lead to a 30 percent reduction in alertness. In fact, over 100,000 car crashes and 7,000 accident deaths each year are attributed to drowsy driving. If you're not getting enough sleep, your cognitive functioning, and your memory in particular, suffers a blow. This can make it difficult to think and process new information on the job or at school, and can double the risk that you will suffer an occupational injury. Sleep loss can also lead to a host of serious physical maladies over the long-term, including an increased risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. In addition, because the body repairs and strengthens its immune system during non-REM sleep, people who don't sleep well are at an increased risk of catching a cold or the flu. There is some evidence that not sleeping well is a factor in obesity. Whether this is true or not, it is certainly a fact that sleeping well is as important to your health as eating right and exercising! Recurrent insomnia can also lead to severe depression. Conversely, people who are depressed often have trouble sleeping, resulting in a vicious cycle. Romantic relationships can be negatively affected by poor sleeping habits, as well. Not only do restless sleepers disrupt the sleep of their partners, they are often irritable and moody during the day-hardly a recipe for romance! Clearly, not sleeping enough during your nighttime hours can have big consequences for your daytime ones! Because a host of factors can contribute to sleep loss, talk to your doctor about what may be contributing to your insomnia.
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012