Wake up, America: Health and work are hurt badly by not sleeping enough

Some of us can fall asleep anywhere anytime. Others not so much, too often by conscious choice and misplaced priorities.

Think students studying hard for tests, office workers completing an important report for a morning meeting. Lost sleep all adds up, experts say, and you just can’t make it all up come Saturday. The body needs its rest — like seven to eight hours nightly — at regular times, like food and, of course, Diet Coke.

Now, comes word from respected researchers that Americans need to take insufficient sleep much more seriously, not just as a natural byproduct of busy social or work lives in demanding modern times. It seems at the time like we get away with cutting sleep short, but the silent damage builds.

Sleep deprivation seriously affects long-term health. It hurts work productivity and quality in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

And it causes accidents. Some researchers suspect ground crew fatigue contributed to the Challenger space shuttle disaster. And  then there’s long-haul Interstate driving. Cruise Control was not invented to enable high-speed dozing.

Because personally we like sleep, we wrote here the other day about what causes insomnia — mainly worrying about relationships and money, especially among millennials.

Rand Corp. has pulled together research showing that sleep deprivation is a major international problem, actually worsening mortality rates due to weakened immune systems and tired bodies .

The U.S., it says, suffers the worst estimated losses from sleep deprivation, more than $410 billion a year. Japan is second with $138 billion lost annually. Yes, yes, I know many studies produce these precise estimates safe in the knowledge that no one else is counting.

But be honest, we all know of serious lost sleep by ourselves or loved ones from work demands, stress, alcohol, lack of physical activity and for some still, smoking, which is now down to a record low of 16 percent nationally.

Also causing lost sleep are those pesky electronic devices so many of us take into the bedroom each night.

Among Rand’s recommendations: Set regular wake-up times, limit electronic devices before bed, consider later school start times and employers need to have better awareness of sleep issues, if only just through brighter work spaces.