Sleep disorders and personal schedules can damage sleep quality. Kristen Knutson of the University of Chicago says "there is laboratory evidence that short sleep durations of four to five hours have negative physiological and neurobehavioral consequences.” Restful sleep is essential to physical health, and dozing for short increments does not allow restorative processes to take place. The National Sleep Foundation warns that many Americans do not understand the mental and physical effects of not getting enough sleep, some of which can be deadly.
Chronic Sleep Debt
Most people need between 7.5 and 9 hours of continuous sleep nightly, according to the National Sleep Foundation. “Sleeping in” on the weekends may not counteract sleeping five , six or seven hours a night the rest of the week. According to the National Institutes of Health, a sleep debt caused by continual deprivation is more difficult to erase than to accumulate. This is because the body sleeps in stages that shift every 90 minutes over the course of an average eight-hour night. A sleep disorder or poor habits that block this progression create sleep debt. Feeling tired and listless follow from not getting enough sleep or experiencing poor sleep quality.
The American Chiropractic Association lists restricted memory, judgment, attention and patience among the mental limitations brought on by inadequate sleep quality and quantity. The ability to think, read and understand directions are also impaired by lack of enough sleep. These mental effects make work, study and everyday thinking activities more difficult. They can also impact interpersonal relationships. General mental impairment plus an increased chance for clinical depression and substance abuse make sleep-deprived workers a hiring risk. A 1997 National Sleep Foundation poll estimated that drowsy U.S. workers cost employers $1.8 billion in work productivity lost to sleep disorders and sleep debt. Shift workers in particular rack up more on-the-job accidents than those with set working hours.
The Better Sleep Council counts physical agility, coordination and energy as some of the victims of insufficient sleep quality. Heart functions, physical endurance and reaction time also suffer when a person doesn’t get enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation notes an increased risk for immune system and nervous system problems, obesity and diabetes in people with sleep disorders. But perhaps the most dangerous physical effect of short sleep duration is the combination of sleepy drivers and motor vehicles. Driver fatigue contributes to more than 1,500 deaths in the U.S. each year.