I have read varying opinions as to the impact trouble sleeping has on ones overall health. One of the most important things to remember, if you cant sleep for a night or two, is it will not have much of a negative impact on your performance the following day. So, if you are lying in bed at 2:00 in the morning and cant sleep, dont start worrying. You will be fine tomorrow. You will have an occasional night where you will not sleep well; you will then call on your adrenaline supply a little more than normal the following day. Also your fatigue after one night will not be that bad. The problems will be worse if you worry too much about the lack of sleep. Worrying about it will make it harder to fall asleep. Any sleep and rest that you are able to get will help you tomorrow, so dont get so stressed that you end up getting no sleep. There is no question that, if your lack of sleeping lasts over a period of time, your performance will ultimately start to diminish.
Our bodies change in many ways as we get older. Sleep is no different. Realizing that changes in sleep are a common part of aging will provide you with a sense of control over sleep. As we age, the amount of sleep we obtain changes, sleep decreases from sixteen to eighteen hours a day in newborns to nearly ten hours for ten-year-olds and to approximately eight hours during the teenage years. We sleep about seven hours a night in middle age and by our seventies sleep time decreases to roughly six and half hours. However, we compensate by obtaining about an hour of additional sleep in the form of daytime naps.
Experiments have been done with volunteers who tried to reduce their sleep from the usual seven and half hours to five and a half hours by decreasing their sleep by thirty minutes every two weeks. Most of the volunteers had little trouble reducing sleep by a half-hour, or even an hour, but they began to notice some difficulty when sleep was reduced by more than this. They were able to awaken on time, and they were able to function at work and in their social life, but they found themselves simply more fatigued. The sleep reduction did not seem to pose a threat to anyones health, but they found themselves to be more irritable, more pessimistic, and less fun to be with. For most adults, reduction in the amount of sleep is possible, but fatigued and changes in mood make it undesirable. It is estimated that about half of the adult North American population is already sleep deprived and any further reduction would have marked changes on mood and performance.
The amount you sleep does affect your chances of living longer. There was a study conducted by the American Cancer Society for over a period of six years with one million Americans in San Francisco. Their survival was rated against many lifestyle factors, including sleep patterns. Surprisingly, men who slept four hours a night or less had a mortality rates ten times greater than that of those who slept between seven and eight hours. It seemed that any deviation from usual sleep requirements for adults of six to eight hours was accompanied by a significant increased risk of mortality. In fact, the National Center for Health Service Research in the United States considers adequate sleep one of the six most important factors affecting illness and death rates; the other lifestyle factors include regular exercise, not smoking, limited consumption of alcohol, regular meal schedules, and maintenance of proper weight.