Are you getting enough sleep? Research from the National Sleep Foundation finds that one-fourth of Americans surveyed said their work schedule did not allow adequate time for sleep. One-third reported that they didn’t get enough sleep to function at their best.
How Much is Enough?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, sleep needs vary by person and age:
- Newborns (0-2 months) 12-18 hours
- Infants (3-11 months) 14-15 hours
- Toddlers (1-3 years) 12-14 hours
- Preschoolers (3-5 years) 11-13 hours
- School Age (5-10 years) 10-11 hours
- Teens (10-17 years) 8.5-9.25 hours
- Adults (18 and over years) 7-9 hours
Your body also has an internal 20 hour clock that causes you to be sleepy and less alert during the nighttime and mid afternoon hours. Most people go through several cyclic sleep stages, each stage about 90 minutes long, every time they sleep. Many people build up “sleep debts” during the week and pay them off on weekends with afternoon naps, but over time, lack of sleep will start to take a toll.
Common Causes of Sleeplessness
The most common cause for sleeplessness is insomnia. Some people may be suffering from more serious sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome.
- Insomnia: A condition that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or both.
- Sleep Apnea: A condition that causes short pauses in breathing while sleeping which may happen many times during the night. If not treated, sleep apnea can lead to other problems such as high blood pressure, stroke or memory loss.
- Restless Leg Syndrome: A condition in which your legs feel extremely uncomfortable, typically in the evenings while you’re sitting or lying down.
- Nighttime Leg Cramps: “Charlie Horses” in the legs or foot are usually temporary and brought on by injury, overuse of muscles, pregnancy or dehydration.
Insomnia: Symptoms & Risk Factors
Temporary insomnia is common and is often brought on by stressful situations such as work, family pressures or a traumatic event. For example, a National Sleep Foundation poll of adults in the United States found that close to half of the respondents reported temporary insomnia in the nights immediately after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Chronic insomnia is defined as having symptoms at least 3 nights per week for more than 1 month.
If you’re suffering from insomnia, you may:
- Lie awake for a long time before you can fall asleep
- Sleep for only short periods
- Be awake for much of the night
- Feel as if you haven’t slept at all
- Wake up too early and not be able to get back to sleep
According to the National Institutes of Health National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, insomnia is a disorder that affects women more than men and can occur at any age.
People at risk for insomnia may:
- Have a lot of stress
- Be depressed or have other emotional distress, such as divorce or the death of a spouse
- Work at night or have frequent major shifts in their work hours
- Travel long distance with time changes
- Have one or more medical conditions
- Have an inactive lifestyle
Behaviors that may contribute to insomnia include:
- Engaging in vigorous exercise just before going to bed
- Consuming large meals late in the day
- Consuming caffeinated beverages throughout the day
Environmental factors that may contribute to insomnia include:
- Extreme temperatures (hot or cold)
- Mosquitoes and other pests
Does Your Sleep Need to be Evaluated?
The National Sleep Foundation suggests asking yourself the following questions to determine whether you might benefit from a sleep evaluation:
- Do you regularly have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep?
- Do people tell you that you snore? Has anyone ever told you that you have pauses in breathing or that you gasp for breath when you sleep?
- Are your legs “active” at night? Do you experience tingling, creeping, itching, pulling, aching or other strange feelings in your legs while sitting or lying down that cause a strong urge to move, walk or kick your legs for relief?
- Are you so tired when you wake up that you cannot function normally during the day?
- Does sleepiness and fatigue persist for more that two to three weeks?
If you answered yes to more that one of those questions, you should talk to your physician. Sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome typically require medical treatment, but many people manage insomnia with simple changes in behavior.
We Can Help
If you or a family member is having trouble sleeping, call VITAL WorkLife. We can help you evaluate your symptoms, develop good sleep habits and suggest ways to help you get the rest you need.
EAP members: call 800.383.1908
Physician Well Being Resources members: call 877.731.3949
For more information
For more information about our comprehensive suite of well being solutions, contact us online or call 800.383.1908.