According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than one-quarter of the U.S. population reports occasionally not getting enough sleep, while nearly 10% experience chronic insomnia. However, new methods for assessing and treating sleep disorders bring hope to the millions suffering from insufficient sleep. Fundamental to the success of all of these efforts is the recognition that sufficient sleep is not a luxury—it is a necessity—and should be thought of as a “vital sign” of good health.
Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions—such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression. Insufficient sleep is associated with the onset of these diseases and also poses important implications for their management and outcome. Moreover, insufficient sleep is responsible for motor vehicle and machinery-related accidents, causing substantial injury and disability each year.
Research has found that insufficient sleep is linked to an increased risk for development of Type 2 diabetes. Sleep duration and quality have emerged as predictors of levels of an important marker of blood sugar control known as Hemoglobin A1c. Research also suggests optimizing sleep duration and quality may be important means of improving blood sugar control in persons with Type 2 diabetes.
High blood pressure, stroke, coronary heart disease and heart arrhythmias have been found to be more common among those with sleep disorders. Sleep apnea and the building of plaque in the artery walls appear to share some common physiological characteristics, suggesting that sleep apnea may be an important predictor of heart disease.
Research found that short sleep intervals result in metabolic changes that may be linked to obesity. The relationship between short sleep duration and excess body weight has been reported in all age groups–but is particularly common in children. It is believed that sleep in childhood and adolescence is important for brain development and that insufficient sleep in youngsters may adversely affect the function of the hypothalamus region of the brain, which regulates appetite and expenditure of energy.