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Go to bed! Doctor's orders

3/10/2015, 6:09 a.m.

— Your lack of sleep not only is affecting your health, but also the health and safety of those around you. Daylight savings time doesn’t make it easier, so the nation’s emergency physicians are warning about the dangers of sleep deprivation.

“Sleep deprivation has been linked to chronic diseases, such as cancer, hypertension and diabetes,” said Dr. Michael Gerardi, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “You may think it’s minor now, but you could be doing serious damage to your body by not resting it properly.”

About 70 million people in the United States suffer from chronic sleep problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Here are some statistics about how much sleep we need versus how much sleep we get.

  • School-age children need at least 10 hours of sleep daily, according to the National Institutes of Health.
  • Teenagers should be getting about 9-10 hours each night.
  • On average, only 30 percent of high school students get at least 8 hours on an average school night.
  • Adults need at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
  • Nearly 30 percent of adults get an average only 6 hours of sleep per day.

Sleep deprivation can be potentially dangerous for other people, especially if you’re driving a vehicle. The National Sleep Foundation reports that about 60 percent of adult drivers say that they’ve driven at some point in the past year while feeling drowsy — some have even nodded off while driving the car. Approximately 11 million drivers have almost had or did have an accident because they either fell asleep at the wheel or were too tired to drive. Oftentimes emergency physicians treat many of these accident victims who were lucky enough to survive.

Additionally, if you share a home or a bedroom with a partner, your lack of sleep could also be affecting his or her sleep pattern.

Sleep hygiene is just as important as getting daily exercise or eating a proper diet. Experts advise people to set a routine and live by it.

  • Go to bed at the same time each night and wake at the same time each morning.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed.

*Avoid large meals before bed.

  • Avoid nicotine.
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable. If you are waking regularly during the night, you might need to have a sleep study done or you may need to do something to make yourself more comfortable in bed.

ACEP is the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education.