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The latest news from every corner of the state, including policy emerging from Missouri's capitol.

Many Missourians' Sleep Deficits Expose Them to Health Risks, Accidents

Sleepy young man rubs his eyes with his right hand. His left hand is on the steering wheel. He is sitting at his car.
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The CDC reports along with lack of sleep, shift work, untreated sleep disorders and alcohol can contribute to drowsy driving. In a survey by the agency, 1 in 25 drivers over the age of 18 reported having fallen asleep while driving in the previous 30 days.

Feeling tired may be a chronic condition for many people in this country, with the number feeling this way varying from state to state.

In a 2020 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey, 29% of Colorado adults reported getting less than the recommended minimum of seven hours per night, compared with nearly 43% of West Virginians. Missourians were midway between these two, at 36%.

Dr. Margaret Mike, assistant professor in the Dept. of Neurology at the University of Missouri School of Medicine-Columbia, said, generally speaking, our daytime functioning is a good measure of whether we are getting enough sleep.

"We all have a little tendency in the afternoon to have a little dip in our alertness -- just part of our usual body temperature rhythm -- but it shouldn't impact our ability to concentrate or do our work," Mike explained.

Getting insufficient sleep increases the risk of developing chronic health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression. It also contributes to a huge number of injuries and deaths from motor vehicle accidents.

Based on her experience as a physician, Mike pointed out sleep apnea is the most common sleep disturbance they see. She warned shallow breathing or pauses in breathing, snoring, getting up multiple times a night and feeling chronically tired can all be symptoms of sleep apnea.

She added a worsening of certain health conditions may also indicate sleep apnea.

"If they're starting to have blood pressure issues or issues with blood pressure control or irregular heart rhythms, they should certainly be evaluated," Mike advised. "Usually, sleep apnea tends to get worse, along with snoring, when there is weight gain."

Studies have also shown a link between sleep apnea and an increased risk for Alzheimer's and other types of dementia.

Dr. Ravi Johar, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare, agreed chronic trouble sleeping is a reason to seek medical care, and he noted our psychological state can also impact our quality of sleep.

"The other thing that's really important that people don't realize is how much stress and behavioral health issues can factor into their sleep," Johar emphasized.

Johar recommended having a bedtime routine that includes calming activities such as yoga, listening to music or reading, and following roughly the same sleeping-waking schedule even on weekends and holidays.

The Missouri Public News Service is a partner with KRCU Public Radio.

Deborah has 20 years of public radio announcing, hosting & producing in Omaha, Nebraska and has been an independent producer on the Public Radio Exchange. Deborah also taught in a variety of K-12 grades and settings in and around the Omaha area for over two decades.