Bad Sleep Is the Pandemic We Continue To Ignore
I have written a lot about the public health crisis in the United States. Americans spent $3.6 trillion in 2018 alone and that number is growing over $200B a year. This means that already, almost 18% of the entire US GDP is devoted to healthcare.
The problem isn’t just a macroeconomic issue, it is literally killing Americans and decimating personal finances. Well over half a million Americans seek bankruptcy protections due to medical bills and lost incomes from protracted health issues and treatments every year.
The problems are huge and the is proving to be one of our most intractable problems. Healthcare affects everyone and the special interests on both sides have huge stakes in the battle. So, healthcare remains a top political issue that is only going to get worse in this presidential election year.
One way to being to address it is to find large issues that we can get bipartisan support on. I nominate American’s sleeplessness pandemic as a candidate.
According to the non-partisan Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC), a third of adults in the US get less than the seven hours of sleep recommended by experts. According to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report poor sleep quality and quantity is correlated with diabetes, coronary disease, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and obesity. Poor sleep is also a symptom of and cause of stress.
As of this writing, headlines are rightly focused on the 19 million cases of seasonal inflluenza this flu season and the thirteenth US Coronavirus patient. These area critical, major healthcare challenges, that is certain. But with approximately 85 million American adults suffering the ill effects of poor sleep, this issue also deserves attention.
Wayne Giles M.D. is the director of the Division of Population Health at the CDC. Dr. Giles writes that “As a nation we are not getting enough sleep. Lifestyle changes such as going to bed at the same time each night; rising at the same time each morning; and turning off or removing televisions, computers, mobile devices from the bedroom, can help people get the healthy sleep they need.”
Experts recommend behavior changes, prioritizing healthy sleep habits and addressing issues that interfere with sleep like nighttime disturbances, poor bedding and chronic pain or snoring.
As Baby Boomer age in large numbers, they are especially prone to sleep issues. As we age, our sleep can deteriorate due to a myriad of issues including changes in lifestyle or employment, family and financial stresses, decreases in activity increased and chronic pain. So, seniors and the caretakers and medical professionals who care for them should prioritize senior sleep health.
Programs which educate people about sleep quality are easier to implement and generally cheaper than other, also important, healthcare policy programs. The CDC recommends that caregivers, employers and healthcare workers can prioritize sleep problems. Individuals must also prioritize good sleep habits and sleep health. Employer policies and corporate wellness programs can play a big role in encouraging sleep and data shows that improved sleep will directly impact employer healthcare costs and employee productivity and hob satisfaction.