Feeling like walking dead? Dragging your way through the day, the week, or month? Feel as if you could be an extra in a zombie movie as your dark undereye bags are already top of the line scary? According to the American Sleep Association, you are not alone. Scary sleep statistics: 50 – 70 million American adults have a sleep disorder; 37.9% have unintentionally fallen asleep during the day in the last month; and almost 5% have nodded off or fallen asleep while driving in the preceding month. Sleep disorders can include insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, sleep deprivation, snoring, melatonin issues, night terrors, circadian rhythm disorders, and many others. Some sleep disorders need western medical intervention and should be managed by a medical doctor. However, let us address general sleep issues and discuss how acupuncture and self-care may help you ditch the zombie life and start feeling human again.
How Much Sleep Do We Really Need
It is important to know that our sleep needs change as we age. Other conditions can also determine how much sleep we need, such as our health, stress, and quality of sleep we currently are getting. The American Sleep Association provides a basic guideline based on age needs alone, which can be used as a starting point to determine your own unique needs. Infants and young children need more sleep than teenagers and adults:
- Adults: 7–9 hours
- Teenagers: 8-10 hours
- Children aged 6-12 years: 9-12 hours
- Children aged 3-5 years: 10 -13 hours (including naps)
- Children ages 1-2 years: 11- 14 hours (including naps)
- Infants 4-12 months of age: 12-16 hours (including naps)
According to the National Sleep Foundation, lack of sleep or poor sleep affected the daily activities of 45% of Americans at least one time in the previous week. Many people already sleep the recommended hours per night. Yet 20% of us are not waking up feeling refreshed, and another 35% report poor sleep quality.
Lack of Sleep and the Cost to Our Health
Zombie infections aside, studies show that we are more likely to get sick after exposure to a virus when we do not get quality sleep nor enough sleep. And once we get sick, lack of sleep can detrimentally affect our recovery timetable. The Mayo Clinic explains that our immune system releases cytokine proteins that help promote sleep. Lack of sleep can interrupt the production of these protecting proteins which are needed during times of infections, inflammation, or when we are under stress, and therefore we need sleep to fight infectious diseases. Increased risks to your health from long-term lack of sleep include “…obesity, diabetes, and heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease.” We seem to have a lot of zombies behind the wheel and are putting others at risk. Drowsy driving is associated with nearly 20% of all serious car crash injuries.
Sleep and Attitude
Feelings of irritability, being stressed, anxious, sad, angry, mentally exhausted, short-tempered, and frustration are every day firsthand experiences affecting our mood as a result of a bad night’s sleep. Sixty million people are suffering from insomnia. The good news is when our sleep returns to normal, our mood bounces back as well, and we are less likely to be mistaken for a rogue zombie movie extra. Sometimes the poor sleep comes first, and then our poor mood follows. Occasionally our feelings, like anxiety or stress, originate first and affect our quality of sleep. Did you know that lack of sleep and depression are connected? Seventy-five percent of depression sufferers also suffer from a lack of sleep.
Sleep Series Part 2 of 3 on “Ditch the Zombie Life and Feel Human Again; Acupuncture and Self-Care for Improved Sleep” will cover acupuncture and research.