One thing is clear to millions of U.S. workers, Americans need better sleep.
How many times a week do you need a midday coffee or other pick me up to make it through the end of the workday? Do you ever find yourself sneaking off (or wishing you could) to your car to take a quick nap after lunch?
If so, you’re already experiencing the key finding underlying this year’s Sleep Awareness Week: We Americans aren’t getting great sleep nor enough of it, That lack of sleep is affecting them physically, mentally, and emotionally. And, it’s taking a toll at work and home.
Sleep Awareness Week, which kicks off each year after the clocks jump ahead to Daylight Saving Time. The goal of Sleep Awareness Week is to promote better sleep, while drawing attention to the health benefits that come with being well rested.
Unfortunately, a new survey from the National Sleep Foundation indicates millions of Americans aren’t enjoying the benefits that come with a good night’s sleep. Instead, they’re consistently sleepy and often looking for a quick fix to their problem.
Americans Are Habitually Tired
The results from the NSF’s Sleep in America poll was startlingly clear; on average, Americans report being sleepy throughout the day three days per week.
In the survey, men reported being sleepy 2.7 days per week while women said they were direct 3.4 days a week on average. In total, 72% of the survey’s respondents said they’re tired multiple days per week.
Participants reported several go-to hacks they use to feel less tired, but many of the solutions are unhealthy.
More than 20% of the people surveyed said they turn to sugary snacks to help give them a quick boost; another 30% said they will grab a sugary or caffeinated drink to get them through. Coffee and napping were two of the more popular options to fight back against sleepiness, with more than 30% of respondents saying they typically lean on both as a way to feel more alert.
The Problem Is Quality And Quantity
At first blush, the results seem to indicate most Americans are burning the candle at both ends and simply don’t have time to get 8 hours of sleep each night.
Interestingly, though, the respondents said it’s more about how they sleep than how much they sleep. 55% of people said they’re sleepy because they’re not sleeping well enough, compared to 44% who said they’re tired because they don’t have enough time to sleep each night. Either way is a concern, however, and shows many Americans are missing out on the benefits that come with deep, restorative sleep.
If you are one of the people who feels like they are not getting quality sleep, take a look at 4 sleep cycles and how they affect your body, it will help you better understand your sleep cycles and may help you get better quality sleep.
Stress Is a Key Factor In Sleepiness
You’ve probably already noticed that you’re not yourself when you’re tired.
That’s because sleep is the foundation on which everything else health-wise is built. When we don’t get good sleep, our bodies end up paying the price.
The Sleep in America poll drove this point home.
For the 44% of respondents who said they’re sleepy 2-4 days per week, 26% said they’re routinely irritable, and another 20% said they deal with frequent headaches. These issues were even more apparent for the nearly 30% of participants who are sleepy 5-7 days per week, with 52% saying they’re often irritable, and 40% reporting they have frequent headaches.
At the same time, stress and sleepiness went hand in hand. The more stressed a respondent said they were, the more likely they battled being sleepy.
Respondents with mild or no stress reported feeling sleepy on average 2.3 days per week; that figure jumped to 3.6 days for those with moderate stress and 4.6 days for those with severe stress.
Other studies have shown this can be a vicious cycle. Last fall, researchers from UC Berkeley found sleepless nights can lead to a 30% spike in anxiety and stress levels. Finding a way to get good, quality sleep is imperative to avoid troublesome health issues.
Treating Sleep Apnea Could Significantly Improve Your Energy
You may be thinking as you read this, “I try and set aside plenty of time for sleep, but I still find myself tired during the day.” It may not be the amount of time you are sleeping that is the issue at all, it may be what is happening to your body during sleep.
People are often surprised to find that they could be suffering from an untreated sleep disorder. Many of the survey participants suffered from commonplace symptoms of sleep apnea, including headaches and fatigue. Other sleep apnea symptoms include:
- Sleepiness or lack of energy throughout the day
- Loud snoring
- Stop breathing and gasp for air during sleep
- Daytime irritability and quick mood swings
- Diminished sex drive
- Anxiety and depression
There are many misconceptions that cause people to overlook sleep apnea. Many believe it only happens to people who are overweight or that it only affects the elderly. The reality is quite different, anyone from infants to the elderly can experience sleep apnea no matter their weight or fitness level. If any of these symptoms fit you, it is important to talk to a sleep specialist to rule out sleep apnea as a cause of your sleepiness.
If you’d like to find out more about symptoms tied to sleep apnea, please read our post on the 7 serious signs you might have sleep apnea.
The good news is, research has shown treating sleep apnea can have a remarkable impact on whether people feel tired and sleepy.
One study, published in Sleep, showed participants who received 3 weeks of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment for sleep apnea showed marked improvements in their fatigue levels. Before their CPAP treatment, the participants, on average, reported fatigue levels of 8.8 on a scale from 1-10; after CPAP, the respondents reported a fatigue level of -0.1 — indicating treatment for sleep apnea can significantly boost energy.
Not only can treating sleep apnea help you feel less tired, it also helps reduce your risk of suffering from more dire health problems; untreated sleep apnea has been linked to a 140% increased risk of heart failure, and a 60% better chance of stroke, among other health issues.
So this year for Sleep Awareness Week, do yourself a favor if you’re tired of feeling tired and reach out to a sleep specialist for an evaluation. Your solution to poor sleep is within reach.