According to a recent article from NPR, the percentage of Americans getting less than the recommended average of 7 hours of sleep has risen steadily over the past several decades. Researchers attribute this widespread increase in sleeplessness to several factors, including increases in stress and constant connectivity to electronic devices. Recent studies have found that first responders and healthcare were especially at risk for chronic sleep deprivation. Much of this risk seems to be linked to job-related stress, sleep disruptions from shift work and being on-call, and exposure to traumatic events.
Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to increased risk of physical health problems, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Chronic sleep deprivation also exacerbates mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, mood swings, and PTSD symptoms, and thoughts of suicide. These effects are especially concerning for first responders and healthcare workers whose jobs already come with a statistically increased risk of suicide.
Sleep experts recommend the mitigating risks associated with chronic sleep deprivation by establishing better habits. These habits include building a nightly routine, winding down at night, and avoiding electronics before bed. For those who are struggling to get to sleep or stay asleep, experts recommend cognitive behavioral therapy as a means of learning to establish and maintain better sleep hygiene.