Today, the average American gets about seven hours of sleep on weeknights and seven and a half hours of sleep on the weekends, according to the National Sleep Foundation. However, most experts recommend that adults get a minimum of eight hours' sleep a night. What's more, 40 million people in the United States suffer from a chronic sleep disorder, according to the National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research.

The bottom line: Most of us aren't getting enough Z's. And the effects of our national sleep deficit go far beyond next-day fatigue. In recent years, scientists have discovered that sleep deprivation can increase an individual's risk of developing serious diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. In addition, it has been linked to psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety, and even psychosis.

Keeping You Awake

If you're juggling a busy schedule, getting enough sleep may be the last thing on your mind. But to prevent sleep deprivation from taking a toll on your health, you need to make rest a priority. First, it's important to identify what's keeping you awake.


According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep deprivation is often caused by one or several of the following factors.

  • Sleep disorders, such as insomnia.
  • Not allowing enough time for sleep.
  • A poor sleep environment.
  • Excessive worry or depression.
  • Repeated awakenings from noise.
  • Working at night or travel across time zones.
  • Medical illnesses that cause pain or difficulty breathing.

Getting More Z's

Consult with your doctor if you think you have a sleep disorder. A physician can help you to identify the underlying source and suggest appropriate treatment.


Even if your sleep problems are relatively mild, it's still best to consult with your physician, but the following guidelines may also help you find relief.

  • Establish consistent sleep and wake schedules, and follow them even on weekends.
  • Create a regular, relaxing bedtime routine, such as listening to soothing music.
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment that's dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool.
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Keep sleep stealers, such as a TV or computer, out of your bedroom.
  • Finish eating two to three hours before your regular bedtime.
  • Exercise regularly during the day.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco products close to bedtime.