Jul 02, 2012 11:50 AM EDT
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Sleep Deprivation: Health Risks and Ways to Ensure Better Quality of Sleep

By Althea Benloss
Sleep
(Photo : flickr.com) After just 24 hours of no sleep, detrimental changes in the body are already starting to occur...

Did you know that 30 percent of workers get far too little sleep? According to a new CDC report, 40.6 million U.S. workers sleep six or fewer hours a day. The National Sleep Foundation recommends we get seven to nine hours of sleep each day.

"If a person doesn't get the recommended amount of sleep, they are at increased risk of injuries that could affect them or the general public if they are a commercial driver," says researcher Sara Luckhaupt, MD, MPH. 

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It is constantly reiterated how important sleep is, yet often times, not enough hours of it is acquired.

Just last month, The Telegraph reported that a 26-year-old Chinese man went 11 days without sleep which may have cost him his life. Severe sleep deprivation is an extreme form of sleep deprivation but is what most likely killed the man, and it results in an immune response that equates what the body goes through when stressed, according to a new study, published in the journal Sleep.

According to Slate, after just 24 hours of no sleep, detrimental changes in the body are already starting to occur, like rising levels of stress hormone, which bumps up blood pressure levels.

According to International Science Times, sleep deprivation not only causes afternoon crashes of sleepiness, but it also impacts long-term health and increases risk for diabetes and heart disease, experts said. Experts have also stated that everyday life makes it difficult to get a good night's sleep.

"The modern condition of excess work, excess pressure, no sleep -- all this disruption -- we can't adapt well to it metabolically," Dr. Orfeu Buxton, CDC researcher and sleep researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital, told WebMD. "This is a maladaptive response to modern life."

However, just because many workers do not meet the National Sleep Foundation's recommendations, does not mean that they are sleep deprived, Dr. Michael Breus, author of the book "Beauty Sleep," told CNN. Sleep researchers put too much emphasis on the amount of sleep, rather than focusing on what is really important.

"Often times, we only think of sleep in terms of minutes -- but that's really the quantity of sleep. In fact, there's a quality of sleep," he said. "If you have sleep apnea and you stop breathing through the night, you might feel really tired in the morning even though you've gotten eight hours. Those eight hours were horrible, light, crappy sleep."

To ensure a better quality of sleep, it is advised by WebMD, that people go to bed at the same time every day, create a relaxing bedroom environment, avoid watching television or eating a large meal right before bed and turn off their cell phone.

"Any degree of sleep deprivation impairs performance or mood," Dr. Mark Mahowald, director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center, told WebMD. "Our society has got to learn to respect sleep as biologically imperative. Getting a good night's sleep is as important as exercising regularly and eating a good diet."

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