As more Americans lose sleep each night, brain researchers are starting to call sleep deprivation a “public health crisis.”
It’s known that lack of sleep has been linked to anxiety, depression, and may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. But researchers are now examining how insufficient sleep may be the onset to some of these psychiatric and neurological disorders, as opposed to merely a symptom.
A 2016 report by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than one-third of adults aged 18-60 slept less than seven hours. The report also found that sleeping less than the recommended time “is associated with increased risk for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, frequent mental distress, and all-cause mortality.”
So does lack of sleep qualify as a public health crisis? And if so, what kind of policy changes would be made to combat the crisis? What might a campaign for treating sleep deprivation look like? We discuss.
Rebecca Spencer, neuroscientist and associate professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Wendy M. Troxel, senior behavioral and social scientist at RAND and adjunct professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh