If you're having trouble sleeping, you're not alone. It is estimated that 70 million Americans suffer from sleep problems.
Other than feeling a bit grumpy the next day, missing out on a good night's sleep has far more serious implications and, according to research, can ultimately cause serious, long-term health problems.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claim sleep deprivation can lead to numerous other health issues including high blood pressure, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, depression, heart attacks and strokes, as well as premature death and reduced quality of life and productivity.
CDC research also points out the daily dangers that can occur from lack of sleep such as automobile crashes, industrial disasters and medical and other occupational mishaps.
Sleep experts have always considered eight hours of sleep to be the optimal amount every night, but the CDC research shows that 28 percent of U.S. adults report sleeping six hours or less each night.
As a result of these findings, the CDC is now calling insufficient sleep "a public health epidemic" in the United States.
"Sleep insufficiency may be caused by broadscale societal factors such as round-the-clock access to technology and work schedules, but sleep disorders such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea also play an important role," the CDC report states. "An estimated 50 million to 70 million U.S. adults have sleep or wakefulness disorder. Notably, snoring is a major indicator of obstructive sleep apnea."
The CDC research team isn't the only ones pushing the importance of what a good night's sleep means to our long-term health.
"Sleep is so critical to good health that it should be thought of as one of the components of a three-legged stool of wellness: nutrition, exercise and sleep," explains Safwan Badr, past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and currently a sleep expert with Detroit Medical Center and Wayne State University.
While the obvious health risks associated with lack of sleep make up the bulk of the CDC report, this is the first CDC surveillance report that also looks at estimates of the effects of drowsy driving and unintentionally falling asleep during the day.
Shockingly, the National Department of Transportation estimates drowsy driving is responsible for an estimated 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 nonfatal injuries annually in the United States.
Regarding how much sleep we need, the CDC report claims the number of hours varies and changes as we get older. The general guideline the CDC points to comes from the National Institutes of Health, which suggests that school-age children need at least 10 hours of sleep daily, teens need 9-10 hours, and adults should get a minimum of 7-8 hours each night.