Sleep deprivation is linked to the development of disease, including heart disease.
If you have trouble sleeping, you’re not alone. New research finds more Americans have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. The difficulties were most prevalent in people with healthy sleep length.
Getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep every night is a struggle for most people, but even those who do may not have the best sleep.
The Struggle for Adequate Sleep
New research from Iowa State University finds more Americans have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. The changes were independent of sleep duration, and difficulties were most prevalent in people with healthy sleep length, the findings show. The study, published in the journal Sleep Health, is one of the first to look at how multiple dimensions of sleep health change over time.
How the Sleep Study Was Conducted
Zlatan Krizan, professor of psychology, and his research team analyzed data collected from nearly 165,000 individuals from 2013 to 2017, as part of the National Health Interview Survey.
- Over the course of five years, adults who reported at least one day a week with difficulty falling asleep increased by 1.43% and those reporting at least one day with trouble staying asleep increased by 2.70%.
- While the percentages may seem small, Krizan says based on 2018 population estimates this means as many as five million more Americans are experiencing some sleep difficulties.
- According to Krizan, “Indeed, how long we sleep is important, but how well we sleep and how we feel about our sleep is important in its own right. Sleep health is a multidimensional phenomenon, so examining all the aspects of sleep is crucial for future research.”
What’s Causing The Problems?
Based on the National Health Interview Survey data, ISU researchers cannot say what is contributing to the worsening of sleep quality. However, Garrett Hisler, lead author and former Iowa State graduate student who is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, says technology is likely a factor.
Hisler says that “We know from our previous research there is a correlation between smartphone use and insufficient sleep among teens. If we’re on our phone before bed or we’re receiving alerts in the middle of the night that can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.”
Consistent with other studies, ISU researchers found the average time spent sleeping decreased. Although the number of people who reported waking up and feeling rested also increased, Krizan says this spike was only observed for one year and is less representative of a trend.
Sleep Deprivation Linked To Heart Disease
By taking a broader look at sleep quality, researchers aim to better understand the link between sleep and health outcomes. In the paper, they explain that sleep duration combined with poor sleep quality can increase the risk for cardiovascular disease, and sleep quality can affect our overall wellbeing.
“We know that how well people sleep is generally very reflective of people’s health and may be an indicator of other conditions,” Krizan said. “If we want a full picture of the population’s health, it’s important to measure and track these changes in sleep trends over time.”
Krizan says the findings suggest that intervention efforts might be more effective by targeting factors that influence the initiation and maintenance of sleep as well as the length of sleep. More research is needed to identify how changes in sleep duration and other sleep characteristics are related.
Sleep Deprivation Linked to Many Diseases
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Adults who sleep less than 7 hours each night are more likely to say they have had health problems, including heart attack, asthma, and depression.3 Some of these health problems raise the risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. These health problems include:
- High blood pressure. During normal sleep, your blood pressure goes down. Having sleep problems means your blood pressure stays higher for a longer amount of time.4 High blood pressure is one of the leading risks for heart disease and stroke. About 75 million Americans—one in three adults—have high blood pressure.
- Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a disease that causes sugar to build up in your blood, a condition that can damage your blood vessels. Some studies show that getting enough good sleep may help people improve blood sugar control.
- Obesity. Lack of sleep can lead to unhealthy weight gain. This is especially true for children and adolescents, who need more sleep than adults. Not getting enough sleep may affect a part of the brain that controls hunger.
Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep each night.1 However, more than one in three American adults say they don’t get the recommended amount of sleep.2 While this may be fine for a day or two, not getting enough sleep over time can lead to serious health problems—and make certain health problems worse.
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