Did you get up today and stumble to the coffee maker to make your coffee because you needed the caffeine to wake up?
Do you have dark circles under your eyes and yawn throughout the day?
If so, you may be part of the growing ranks of Americans who are chronically sleep-deprived.
There are many reasons for sleep deprivation ranging from staying up too late to watch tv, trying to do too many tasks, having children (who are notorious sleep robbers), having an overloaded schedule including working full-time and caring for children and a home, to more serious causes such as insomnia and sleep apnea.
Whatever the cause, chronic lack of sleep can have a high toll on your finances.
We are trained to reward those who push themselves, who stay at the office late, work hard, and short change themselves on sleep every night so they can get more done.
However, this societal norm should change because Americans’ lack of sleep has very expensive consequences.
Consider the following financial and physical tolls caused by lack of sleep:
• Stimulants to stay awake.
Many people spend money on coffee, whether they drink it at home or buy it at Starbuck’s, to stay awake. In addition, they may buy energy drinks and eat chocolate, looking for a quick caffeine hit.
• Sleeping pills.
If you chronically have trouble sleeping, you may try to remedy the problem yourself with over the counter sleep aids, which can add up quickly if you use them on a regular basis.
MLive reports, “Sleeping pill use among young adults rose 85 percent between 2000 and 2004, according to Medco Health Solutions, and the older the person, the more likely they are to use sleeping pills. Close to 8 percent of those with health insurance used sleeping pills in 2006, Thomson Healthcare reported, compared to 5 percent in 1998.”
• Car accidents.
Those who are chronically sleep deprived are more prone to falling asleep at the wheel.
In fact, Professor Max Hirschowitz was quoted in CNN.com as saying, “If you take all of the people that die on the highway from falling asleep at the wheel in a week, and you add them up, that’s the equivalent of a major fully loaded airplane crashing every day.”
Researchers are beginning to draw a link between obesity and lack of sleep.
The primary culprit appears to be the hormone gherlin, which tells us we are hungry. When we are tired, gherlin increases while leptin, the hormone that tells us we are full, decreases.
The Chicago Tribune explains, “In 1960, Americans averaged 8.5 hours of sleep a night, and our obesity rate was around 12%. Today we’re averaging 6.5 to 7 hours, and our obesity rate has climbed to around 30%.”
True, there are societal factors that could also explain the increase in obesity such as more people eating at restaurants and buying fast food rather than cooking at home, but the link to sleep and obesity cannot be denied.
The Chicago Tribune cites Dr. Michael Decker, a sleep expert and spokesman for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, “studies consistently show that adults sleeping fewer than six hours a night increase their likelihood for becoming overweight or obese—even when exercising and eating right. Among adults ages 32 to 49, those averaging five hours of sleep were twice as likely to be obese after nine years compared with those averaging seven hours.”
These studies seem to prove that all things being equal, lack of sleep does seem to be a factor in rising obesity, which in turn leads to more serious health issues.
• Heart disease and stroke.
A report on ABC World News Tonight quoted Dr. Rohit Arora, chair of cardiology at Chicago Medical School who led a recent study that discovered, “People who sleep less than six hours a night are twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack and one-and-a-half times more likely to have congestive heart failure.”
As Americans, we often boast about how busy we are and how little sleep we get.
Lack of sleep seems to be a badge to show how hard we are working. Yet, while we may feel tired when we sleep less, most of us rarely think about the significant health and financial implications.
Car accidents caused by falling asleep at the wheel, heart attacks, strokes and obesity can all rob us of our lives or the lives of those we love. If we do not experience loss of life, we pay billions as a country to treat the medical conditions attributed, in part, to lack of sleep.
Personally, we could also be paying hundreds to thousands on sleep aids, stimulants and health care for conditions exacerbated by lack of sleep.