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YOUR HEALTH: COVID may be taking away our quality sleep

The impact researchers say COVID might have on our sleep and what that could mean for our health

MUNCIE, Ind. — Sleep.

You need it to give your body a chance to reset. 

But as a nation, the number of people who get the prescribed amount has dropped from 75 percent in 2008 to 64 percent in 2018. 

The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get at least seven hours of sleep a night to stay healthy. 

Ball State University health science researcher Jagdish Khubchandani first analyzed the sleep habits of 150,000 Americans through 2018 and then updated those results in 2020.

"You'll find that there are some groups who sleep lesser than five, four," he said.

Who?

"People with multiple jobs in the lowest socioeconomic strata, people in the South, police officers, doctors, nurses," he added.

Researchers say only 50% of police officers and 55% of health care workers reported getting enough sleep. 

Over time, the effects of sleep deprivation add up.

"And in the long run, you continue to gain weight. You have a risk of heart disease, cancers and stroke because sleep is like a medicine," said Khubchandani.

Researchers say it's important to keep the same sleep schedule during the pandemic. 

Avoid heavy and sugary foods for several hours before bed and cut back on screen time and social media. 

One other new finding involves women and sleep. 

The percentage of women reporting too little sleep grew from 31% in 2010 to almost 36% in 2018.

Those numbers are also projected to grow in 2020 due to greater socioeconomic stress and work-life balance issues.

"In the short term you have nervous disorders, anxiety, your reflexes become poor, your judgment becomes poor, anger management becomes an issue and in the long run you continue to gain weight," he said. 

"You have a risk of heart disease, cancers and stroke because sleep is like a medicine."

And that medicine has never been more important.

"That's your time when you rejuvenate," said Khubchandani.

"You grow again. You feel relaxed, fulfilled. It's that time needed to you know calm down and re-energize yourself."

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.