An Epidemic Of Sleep Deprivation May Be Threatening The Long-Term Health Of Americans

In our modern 24/7 society, not getting enough sleep is an all too common occurrence. We're all familiar with the effects of sleep deprivation: grogginess, lethargy and decreased productivity, but recent studies confirm that a lifetime of...

Sleep is not a luxury; it is essential part of a healthy lifestyle. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each day and children need even more than that, yet according to the CDC almost 30% of adult Americans reported an average of six or fewer hours of sleep per night and fewer than a third of high school students in 2009 reported sleeping at least right hours on an average school night. These findings clearly indicate that sleep deprivation is an epidemic in the United States.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Harvard Medical School recently published a research article that evaluated the sleep patterns of rotating night shift workers. These workers have schedules that put them at odds with their natural circadian sleep rhythms and the findings were startling:
• Women who worked rotating shifts for three to nine years had a 20% increased risk for Type 2 diabetes
• Women performing shift work for 10 to 19 years experienced a 40% increased risk
• Those women working shift work for more than 20 years faced a 58% increased risk

Even more disturbing, those who perform shift work tend to smoke, eat unhealthy diets and exercise less.

Shift work is not going away: nearly 15 million Americans work full time on evening, night or rotating shifts. With shift work here to stay, the researchers recommend steps to prevent chronic illness among these workers. Those include:

• Encourage worksite health education that emphasizes the importance of sleep
• Stop equating sleep deprivation with productivity
• Fund more sleep studies
• Balance work schedules and personal lives and be serious about healthy lifestyles

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