Man uses a tablet computer in bed.

More and more Americans are sleeping less and less. That’s according to data from the Centers for Disease Control that show a growing number of people sleep less than six hours a night. And research shows people who sleep less are at greater risk for heart disease, obesity and diabetes. We talk with experts about all things sleep.

How Less Sleep Increases Your Risk of Disease 26 August,2014forum

Matthew Walker, professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley, where he runs the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory
Rafael Pelayo, clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine
William Dement, professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine

  • thucy

    Excessive drinking remains the fourth leading cause of preventable death in the United States, after smoking, poor nutrition and physical inactivity. Since alcohol consumption disrupts sleep, these researchers might ask how much of this lack of sleep is linked to even moderate alcohol consumption, and thus the disease factor is actually alcohol?

    This past June the CDC reported that 1 in ten US deaths among adults 20-64 is the result of drinking alcohol, and that “excessive” alcohol consumption (measured at eight or more drinks a week for women and fourteen or more for men) was costing the US over $220 BILLION a year.

    As everyone mourned the terrible tragedy of all the spilled wine in Napa due to the weekend’s earthquake, I couldn’t help but wonder why, even amongst liberals, the CDC report continues to be ignored.

    • Robert Thomas

      thucy, this is a bugbear of mine.

      I’m not a teetotaler. I occasionally have a drink. I also have a sibling who was alcoholic at fourteen (twenty years of sobriety, now). When I was younger, I cultivated a taste for single malt scotch and good gin. I discovered that even a thoughtful connoisseurship could be dangerous for some people.

      I don’t understand the strange reluctance we have to confront the effects of what many people would call moderate alcohol use.

      The recent Ken Burns production Prohibition rightly illustrated the potential for unintended consequences that social engineering by coercion can have but mostly ignored the appalling level of alcoholism and damage caused by impure alcohol through much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in north America that lead to the Eighteenth Amendment; it also perpetuated the myth that everyone evaded prohibition and that it had no salutary effect.

      Organs of Public Radio seem (ahem) intoxicated with the brewery and distillery business; a rare week goes by where programs like PRI’s The World or APM’s Marketplace fail to indulge their fascination.

      A few months ago, Dr Krasny forwarded a question of mine to Olivia Lang, author of the recent The Trip To Echo Spring, asking about why in the face of such exponents as Malcolm Lowry and Kingsley Amis et. al., et. al. she chose to focus on North American drunks? I guess she may have already been asked about this during her book tour, but when I continued, describing the attitude I had noted since I began traveling in the UK during my youth, of British toleration of routine, falling-down drunkenness among the educated and well-employed, she demurred. She suggested that there was a belated shift beginning to be felt in the UK away from dismissing “dependency” (including on alcohol) as an American fad, toward taking concerns about regular inebriation more seriously. I’ll believe it… when I see it.

      An amusing aspect of this cultural dislocation (European attitudes vs. North American puritanism) is the obviously British-authored (many “whilsts”, etc.) WP article on “alcoholism” that identifies Americans as among the most alcohol dependent and British as comparatively dependency free. I expect that not only was the WP author sincere but that many “legitimate” British academics would readily concur.

      • marte48

        I hope that Ken Burns gets around to addressing the excessive costs of marijuana prohibition.

    • marte48

      Obviously, it’s because of businesses that depend upon alcohol.

  • marte48

    Don’t forget the effects of caffeine!Coffee is probably more to blame than alcohol.

    • thucy

      Not per the CDC….
      Bear in mind that what the CDC labels “excessive” alcohol consumption would not be considered excessive by the majority of Americans. For example, a mere 2 beers a night for men
      or 1.14 glasses of chardonnay for women is “excessive”.
      Also bear in mind that few who drink are able to assess their own intake accurately. Caffeine is a problem, but not on par with alcohol.

      • Robert Thomas

        When I was in my twenties, I slowly came to realize that I had a couple of buddies who actually became irritated and nervous when they didn’t have beer in their refrigerators. I finally decided I needed to find other buddies.

        • Robert Thomas

          Eh. This is pretty off-topic here, I guess.

      • marte48

        I do not and never have been into alcohol, not even occasionally, and I have been an insomniac all of my life. But I do appreciate your efforts to reduce alcohol consumption.

  • marte48

    …and what about TV and the internet?

  • JuniorWoodpecker

    Most of the sleep studies that I see happening now are either on young college-aged people, veterans with PTSD, or people with sleep apnea, all of which is good but what about the rest of us?

  • Robert Thomas

    I figured this out (that teenagers should be encouraged to sleep late) when I was thirteen.

    As usual, forty years ahead of my time.

  • Tony Bass

    I love to sleep. Can one get too much sleep (more than 9 hours/day)? If so, what are the long term effects of sleeping too much?

  • Sean Dennehy

    If waking up to urinate at night is a symptom of sleep apnea, what else do we consider common is really a symptom of sleep apnea and just how many cases of sleep apnea are undiagnosed because we think these symptoms are normal?

  • $2870056

    Move the start of the school day forward an hour?
    Don’t we do that every spring with “daylight savings” time?

    Can kids go to bed an hour earlier, if they need “another hour” of sleep?
    Maybe (sarcasm) add a 25th hour to the day, just for them.

  • ES Trader

    I have used CPAP for the past 6 years, following diagnoses of sleep apnea. My complaint is that I still awaken feeling tired, something suffered since my teens. Is there a better solution?

    Also the only time I can sleep 7+ hours are weekends. Is it recommended to nap on weekdays if sleeping 5-6 hours ?

    Was lack of sleep and apnea contributing factors in having a stroke 3 years ago?

    • thucy

      If you’ve been waking feeling tired since your teens, what is your activity level? A low physical activity level baseline as a teen often translates into low physical activity as an adult. Low physical activity frequently leads to sleep disorders.

      • ES Trader

        I was a HS jock,golfed (walked) biked,hiked, jogged most of my until my stroke

        • thucy

          Yikes, sorry to hear about your stroke. Golf was a high school sport?

          • ES Trader

            It was at my HS;wasnt a golfer (baseball,football).

            Took it up in college

    • Kathy

      Have you been re-evaluated while on the CPAP? Typically, a follow-up sleep study is ordered to ensure it is effective.

      • ES Trader

        Yes, the last time was a few months after my stroke at Kaiser Vallejo Sleep Center for overnight evaluation………..Kaiser is earning record profits, marketing like Proctor & Gamble w/ its radio ads, billboards etc. but their policy & procedures for many things i.e emergency care following a stroke, improved medical medical advice by primary care MD’s to high risk candidates etc.

        It turned out that my BP Rx had to be increased from 25 to 100 mg/daily following my stroke.

        ER, though admitted just 30 minutes after calling 911, decided I had a TIA, did not administer a clot busting drug or even a blood thinner, did not get me in for a CT scan until 6 PM when I entered ER at 9 AM and allowed very limited effects of the TIA to develop into a full stroke the following day, while hospitalized, at 6PM, 33 hours after ER, then resulted in severe left side immobility, hand, arm, leg, vision irregularity, and speech.

        I was, I thought a healthy 59 yo that jogged 2 miles 3 – 5 X’s per week, hiked 5-6 miles nearly every weekend and at least outwardly appeared slim, energetic and very healthy.

        My friends were shocked.

  • Amy Y

    What about sleep problems as they pertain to people with chronic illnesses such as Fibromyalgia, Sjogren’s, POTS, etc.? One of the main symptoms of these conditions is pronounced fatigue, but sleep doesn’t relieve it. what is your experience/opinion on how to relieve that fatigue?

  • Dean Tucker

    Do activity/sleep tracking devices provide accurate data, and are they useful for CBT therapies?

  • Sara Sherman

    I have a lot of friends with insomnia who belive that they’d be able to sleep if they weren’t forced to live by the standard 9-5 work schedule. If they could stay awake until they naturally fell asleep and sleep in and go to a later work shift they’d get better sleep. Wonder if this hasbeen studied…

    • laura

      I work a later shift but woken repeatedly by city noises. In a perfect a world I’d sleep till 10am. Worst culprit is SFRECOLOGY. They started at 5am

  • Lance

    A cheap step to help sleep issues, would be for the U.S. to finally stop using day light savings.

  • $2870056

    “Everyone around this table is breathing. And it’s quiet.”
    Is everyone around the table lying horizontal?

    That “science” cracked me up, “doc.”

  • Zoe

    When I have been up all night, it is much harder to then get to sleep. Why is that? Any tips on shutting down my brain?

  • Charles

    My wife gets sleepy suddenly towards the end of the day. She “hits a wall.” It seems like a new development these last 3 years in SF. It’s almost as if she collapses once she no longer has to “perform.” She really becomes completely exhausted suddenly. I think she gets 8 or 9 hours.

  • Scott A

    Since the amount and quality of sleep we get so strongly effects our ability to control impulses, willpower, critical thinking, and a host of other cognitive faculties, knowing how much somebody has slept allows marketers to know when their ads will be more effective.

    The trend towards sharing sleep tracking data – as shown by Jawbone – allows marketers, commercial and political, to see when we’re in a more pliable state.

    Since this literally gives you the ability to manipulate a population’s political opinions Do you think that data like this about individual’s mental state should be regulated in some way?

  • Alex

    I’m a 24 year old with night terrors. I’ve had them for around 10 years which is apparently very rare. They are exacerbated by lack of sleep and stress. I find them incredibly worrisome and I can often feel the effects the next morning. I am a Kaiser member but their sleep lab is only for sleep apnea. Do you have any insight or suggestions on treatment? Thank you!

  • Karen Jaenike

    My husband was diagnosed with PLMD (Periodic Limb Movement Disorder) in his early 20s… he’s now in his mid-40s. During his first night in the sleep lab, technicians tracked over 400 movements with over 200 arousals (to wakefulness or Stage 2 sleep). He’s now medicated, but subsequent sleep tracking over the years has revealed absolutely no Stage 4 sleep. Wondering what the long term implications are…

    P.S. – he and I took Dr Dement’s ‘Sleep and Dreams’ class at Stanford about 26-27 years ago… my favorite class by far

  • Zoe

    What about acute sleep deprivation ie staying up all night working/finishing a task, but not very often? Any health risks of that?

  • abocha

    What about people with young children? I have a 3 month old and know I am sleep deprived. I’ve wondered, how our species survived. Were cave women as sleep deprived as I am?

  • Marta

    After surgery several yrs ago, my sleep was badly disrupted. I spent a yr using Ambien and then became a CBT patient @ Stanford. It was weeks of common sense training – turn off the laptop well before bed, don’t drink coffee / alcohol @ nite, dim the lites, etc. – 3 mos later, my life was changed. I don’t need drugs to sleep and when I practice the ‘sleep hygiene’ I learned @ Stanford I consistently sleep well. Common sense training (CBT) really works.

  • Molly Taylor-Poleskey

    What an informative discussion. I’m a mother of a five month old and as I prepare to return to work and use my brain again, I’m still severely sleep-deprived and wondering is there any way to catch up on sleep and recover my mental faculties? Will I ever be well-rested again?

  • Stacy

    My sister-in-law, a hopeful vegetarian, claims she has nightmares when she eats meat. I’ve heard other say that too. Is there anything behind that or is it just mental?

  • Siobhan OReilly Shah

    Actually mothers feeding new babies do not need to wake up fully. Humans are designed to sleep next to our babies and breast feed them. Mothers do not need to wake up fully to do this. Also breastfeeding releases oxytocin in mothers and babies that helps put each back to sleep.

  • Kathleen

    Is just plain old stress not a major factor amongst the great 99 percent of Americans who find themselves stuck in the income levels of the 1970s?

  • Tony Bass

    This is an exceptional show. I’m an attorney and like other professionals, including medical doctors, is required to take continuing education to maintain my professional license. I think a program on “Proper Sleeping” should be a mandatory part of continuing education programs for attorneys, police officers, professors and medical doctors, especially general physicians.

  • vivek

    Does the time of night you sleep has anything to do with quality of sleep? For ex, would sleeping from 9pm-5am give you better night sleep than 1am-9am?

  • Brandy Mello

    My daughter is 7 years old and she still partially wakes up some nights with night terrors. I read that it is caused by a need to urinate coupled with the inability to fully awaken. We usually help her go to the bathroom and then try to calm her back to sleep. Shouldn’t she have outgrown this by now? Should I seek help for her? Is this a sleep disorder?

  • Dana

    I’m a 40 year old woman- I typically wake up many, many times between 11pm-2am and then sleep well, but I wake tired. Any tips or thoughts?

  • Emily

    Wonderful forum today, thank you. Very timely, this article was published today as well.

  • ES Trader

    As a Kaiser member, that is the best advice of all……………..change your health insurance !!!!

  • Laura

    My 11 year old son has a very hard time falling asleep. What do you think of low-dose melatonin (.5 or 1mg) for older children?

  • Colleen

    Changing the start time of the school day will not result in teens getting more sleep. They’ll just stay up later and shift their schedule. I’m the parent of a 16 year old and a 21 year old and I have a lot of experience in trying to get teens to get more sleep. I agree that teens need more sleep, but this is a naive solution. Starting the day later will help those teens who get their “deepest” sleep right before rising, but that’s a different issue.

  • Fred

    Is our culture macho about resisting sleep, for our leisure activities and in education…Doctor’s residency…all night gaming sessions etc.? Is this the same around the world?

  • Guest

    I’m 28 and still have night terrors. It gets worse when I’m menstruating. I’ve found that taking a low dose of melatonin during this time helps reduce the occurance.

  • Lisa

    I heard the presenters mention their clinic a couple of times, but I didn’t get the name or contact info for making an appointment. Would you mind posting it?

    • The three guests were from either Stanford or UC Berkeley. If you scroll up on this page, you’ll see their complete affiliations.

  • Sam

    I have been having frequent nightmares for a couple of years. Usually people are chasing me to do me harm. I often flail my arms or throw punches to protect myself or others in my dream. I sometimes wake up my partner violently who is getting fed up with this. Your thoughts?

  • Richard

    Recently I’ve been working very long hours i.e., from 9:00 a.m. one day to 3:00 to 4:00 a.m. the following morning. I did this three times a week during a two week period to work on a time sensitive project. On those nights I worked late, I would get very little sleep and what sleep I received was not sound or deep sleep because my mind remained active thinking about my work. Even on the nights that I did not work as late, I had difficulty getting to and staying asleep because of work related stress. On the weekends, the sleep debt caught up to me and I would be fatigued, run down and get cold like symptoms, which would last for three to four days — causing me to use a day or two of sick leave the following week. While I was working late hours, I took vitamin supplements, including 1000 mg of vitamin C, B-12, and Omega oil. I wonder if there is a correlation between sleep deprivation and the wreaking of the immune system, which would explain why I would get sick after prolonged periods of little sleep and/or unsound sleep?

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