As journalists, we often will do an interview on a topic that may raise interest in another based on a small side comment or release of accompanying information. For me recently, I was working on our annual health section and doing some interviews for a story on heart health.
Besides learning how unhealthy Americans are when it comes to the heart, the topic of sleep came up with doctors and research several times. This led me down a rabbit hole that turned into to some eyebrow-raising data.
First off — We as Americans are clearly not sleeping enough. Everyone talks about how on edge we are, how stressed out we are. Well, it might not take a genius to see that sleep could be a major contributing factor.
According to sleep experts across the board, and the Centers for Disease Control, adults need at least seven hours of sleep per night to achieve the best health and well-being.
However, data shows that 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep, which accounts for more than a third of American adults who are operating day-to-day lives, or adulting as some might say, without enough rest.
In Colorado, we are not exactly leading by example. According to a recent study, Coloradans ranked as the nation’s 23rd unhealthiest sleepers. The data came from countingsheep.net, which analyzed county health rankings nationwide.
For those wondering, Vermont is the unhealthiest state in terms of sleep. Some of the healthiest in terms of getting enough rest are New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio.
Besides sleep impacting our moods and ability to function, several studies and industries are raising the red flags for how it is starting to cause major health conditions.
Each year, the American Heart Association releases a list of components that go directly to the heart of achieving optimal heart health. In 2022, the association added sleep to that list because Americans are not getting enough sleep, therefore causing chronic health conditions.
Overall, only 7% of Americans can say they have optimal heart health. That’s a pretty dismal figure. To some degree, it’s a little frightening.
Looking further, sleep can be a contributing factor in problems with obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and frequent mental distress.
Making the problem worse, sleep issues are not just an issue for adults anymore. More and more data shows that teenagers and youth are struggling to get the recommended sleep hours.
As the unhealthy sleep habits only increase, one might ask — Why? How did we get here?
Doctors, studies and specialists all have similar messaging — We as Americans have become way too busy.
An NPR story looking at the issue pointed to our culture of stress and the need for constant connection. Working Americans are getting less sleep as they try to manage a workday, handle raising children and, sometimes, find some alone time to decompress, which then cuts into the hours where we should be laying our head down to rest.
In talking to one doctor about the solution — he was clear — We have to start making sleep a priority. WE have to start realizing just how much pressure we put on ourselves. We have realize we might look at the world a lot better and feel better if we start getting the rest we need.
For those reading this — Here’s to a focus on getting a better night’s sleep tonight.
Thelma Grimes is the south metro editor for Colorado Community Media.