By Optum New Mexico
New Mexicans sleep a little better than most Americans. According to the United Health Foundation’s Annual America’s Health Rankings, 32.3 percent of adults report insufficient sleep, defined as sleeping fewer than seven hours in a 24-hour period. New Mexico adults rank 13th in the nation with 30.5 percent reporting insufficient sleep. Plus, all age groups in our state fare better against national averages – except for one: 26.7 percent of those aged 65+ are lacking sleep, compared to 26 percent of their peers around the country.
For the 45-64 age group, the state is only 0.7 percent better than the national average (33.8 percent vs. 34.5 percent). Sleep is crucial to overall health, and we don’t want to fall any further behind, which is why March is designated as National Sleep Awareness Month.
For all age groups, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites a variety of factors that diminish the health benefits of a good night’s sleep, ranging from anxiety to watching television too late. Not getting sufficient sleep can be linked to chronic health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and depression.
Sleep deprivation can exacerbate these conditions and lead to all manner of negative health outcomes. For instance, not getting enough sleep can cause more accidents (from lack of attention), influence weight gain (hunger and overeating), and contribute to moodiness, behavior swings, and daytime sleepiness (lack of productivity, drowsy driving, etc.).
For older New Mexicans especially, it’s important to understand how sleep quality can impact overall health. The Centers for Disease Control links the health risks of sleep deprivation to the development and management of the most common chronic conditions:
Older Generation Sleep Risks
Sleep duration and quality are predictors of Hemoglobin A1c levels, which are markers for controlling blood sugar. Better sleep is critical to treating type 2 diabetes, and keeping blood sugar in check to decrease chances of future heart problems.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common medical condition in which the muscles of the throat collapse during sleep. Sleep apnea has been found to increase risk for cardiovascular conditions including hypertension, stroke, coronary heart disease, and irregular heartbeats (cardiac arrhythmias). Hardening of the arteries and OSA share physiological characteristics, indicating that sleep apnea is a predictor for heart disease.
Short sleep duration has been found to cause metabolic changes that may lead to excess body weight and obesity. The body’s biological clock runs to the beat of daily circadian rhythms, which cause us to want to eat or sleep. Health risks arise when these cycles fall out of alignment, and disrupted sleep is linked to obesity and digestive problems.
There is a complex correlation between sleep and depression. Disrupted sleep and sleep apnea can be symptoms of depression, and taking steps to support sleep sufficiency are important to any treatment program. Research suggests that depressive symptoms can decrease with better sleep.
Seniors are more prone to aches and pains that can disrupt sleep. They may find themselves healing from long-term injuries or recovering from surgeries such as shoulder, hip and knee replacements, which can contribute to disrupted sleep and insomnia. Pain and anxiety management, and blocking out environmental disruptions, can be major factors in gaining recovery benefits from quality sleep.
Everyone needs sufficient sleep. Older generations especially need their rest to recharge both body and mind. New Mexicans sleep well on average, so let’s not fall behind. No matter your age, take stock, and take the steps you need to get enough shut-eye.