On Sunday, March 14, Americans will turn their clocks ahead and lose an hour of sleep. This annual "spring forward" may not seem like much, but it comes in an age where many people are already cutting back on sleep to squeeze in more activities and more time with loved ones. Now is a good time to remember that no matter how much we want to pack into our waking hours or how sincerely we believe we can get by on five or six hours of sleep a night, we need plenty of quality sleep to help keep us healthy. With that in mind, the National Sleep Foundation has declared this week National Sleep Awareness Week®.
Chronic sleep debt and sleep disorders—which affect an estimated 70 million Americans—can not only make us drowsy during the day, they can also raise our risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and other diseases. For some people, avoiding sleep-related health problems is simply a matter of making sure they get enough sleep every night. (That's seven to eight hours for most adults and nine to ten hours for most teens.) Others need better quality sleep. Common causes of poor sleep include health conditions like asthma and bronchitis, certain heart and blood pressure medicines, eating or exercising before bed, and untreated sleep disorders. There are over 70 known sleep disorders—including insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome (RDS), and narcolepsy—that affect 40 million Americans. The NHLBI's Your Guide to Healthy Sleep has more information about sleep disorders and their symptoms.
Sleep helps establish a daily biological rhythm we need to maintain our health. Not getting enough sleep can have a wide-ranging influence over our lives, including our dietary preferences, choice of leisure activities, job or school performance, emotions, decision-making, and our relationships with others. The NHLBI continues to support research into sleep-related health risks and effective treatments for sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
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