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This is What Sleep Deprivation Is Doing to You

The CDC finds a staggering number of us get fewer than six hours of sleep a night, and warns there could be serious consequences.

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You have a business. Maybe you have a couple of kids. You hope to have some shred of a social life. What you probably don't have many of then is good nights' sleep. You might be exhausted but at least you're not alone. A new report released by the Centers for Disease Control reveals 30 percent of American adults—that's 40.6 million of us—sleep six hours a day or fewer. If you work more than 40 hours a week, the chances you get inadequate shut-eye are ever higher—36 percent of this group gets fewer than six hours.

Considering the demands of starting a business, it's a fair guess that many entrepreneurs fall into that sleep-deprived 36 percent. So what are the consequences for all those hours of snoozing you gave up to get your business off the ground? The answer isn't pretty.

"The modern condition of excess work, excess pressure, no sleep—all this disruption—we can't adapt well to it metabolically. This is a maladaptive response to modern life," a researcher who studies disrupted sleep patterns, Dr. Orfeu Buxton, told WebMD. Or, to put it simply, not sleeping enough, or sleeping irregular hours, makes it more likely you'll get fat. As the International Buiness Times points out, recent studies "found that disrupted sleep schedules of six-hour bouts decreased metabolism in volunteers, which could translate to annual weight gain of 10 pounds."

And getting a little chunkier isn't the worst of it. Not sleeping enough can make you ill—or dead. 20 percent of vehicle crashes are linked to driving while drowsy and inadequate sleep is a contributing cause for a litany of health horrors, including heart disease, diabetes, and depression, continuing right down to simple irritability.

So what can you do to avoid these troubles? The short and simple answer is sleep more—The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get between seven and nine hours a night. But of course, balancing everything that needs doing in your life isn't so simple. Besides what experts call good "sleep hygiene"—not drinking caffeine at night, turning off the TV before bed, sticking to a sleep schedule—the key may be rethinking your schedule to work shorter, smarter hours and actually leave the office closer to on time (after all, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg manages it).

Finding ways to increase your general health despite your work pressures, may help too. Here are a few suggestions.

'Fess up, are you among the third of Americans who regularly gets way too little sleep? 

Last updated: May 3, 2012

JESSICA STILLMAN is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.
@EntryLevelRebel




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