TODAY   |  June 18, 2013

Researchers: Sleep deficit can shorten your life

New studies are showing one third of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep, at least eight hours a night, and researchers are saying a chronic lack of sleep can lead to heart problems, mood disorders, and more. NBC’s Tamron Hall reports and Dr. Nancy Snyderman discusses the findings.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> a real wake up call , if you thought vices like smoking and drinking were the only behaviors that can shorten your life span , tamryn has more on this story.

>> a recent article highlights how sleep deprivation can be harmful to your health.

>> 8 hours of sleep is what we need but 1/3 of all americans aren't getting enough sleep.

>> i go to bed at a descent time but don't get straight sleep.

>> things that need to be done or have to get up early and go to work.

>> it's not just too much work and not enough time that's keeping us awake.

>> usually just watch your tv but it could be playing on the computer or ipad or iphone, what is handy.

>> the average person is sleeping 4 to 6 hours a day and that's two hours less than what we should be getting.

>> reporter: new research blames chronic sleep loss on a whole list of health problems from heart problems to mood disorders , memory loss and weight gain. when you feel tired and run down, you get sick. sleep deprived people are three times more likely to get every day infections like colds and flu.

>> no matter what age we are, from kids to teens to elderly, sleep deprivation effects us all.

>> reporter: being rested and alert is also crucial behind the wheel. they estimate 100,000 car crashes per year are a result of drowsy drivers. some even suggest that lack of sleep can shorten your life.

>> considering all the medical problems that are associated with sleep deprivation . getting an adequate amount of sleep will help in the long run.

>> the times article explained that sharing information with your doctor like how long you sleep and howell you sleep is important for your overall health and savannah, the only worry is that your doctor might say hey, i'm not getting enough sleep either.

>> exactly. that maybe the case. sn nancy is nbc's chief medical editor.

>> good morning.

>> people say i don't need that much asleep.

>> i used to be one of them. i did a segment one time and said i only need 3 or 4 hours of sleep a night. he said how long does it take you to go to sleep? i said i go immediately. you should go to bed and there should be 10 to 15 minutes of being there and restless and then you get into sleep.

>> sleep effects every single system .

>> there's not an organ system from brain to your bladder to your bones. it can cause mental health problems like anxiety and depression and kids are sometimes misdiagnosed with add because they're sleep deprived . obesity, heart disease , you name it. there are chemicals released in your body. none of them are good for you. so the downhill message is that's exactly where your body is going to go if you don't sort of change your life and invest in sleep. we talk all we want about cigarettes and diet and exercise but if you don't put sleep in there as a real health component you're shortchanging yourself.

>> everybody has a bad night of sleep from time to time. i had a terrible night of sleep last night. how much has to go on before you start seeing the really serious impacts.

>> one night. it's not going to cause problems. let's say heart disease , we know people chronically sleep deprived have hardening of the arteries faster. one night won't get you into problems. i it's when you deny that you need 7 or 8 hours. we don't know how much everybody needs. we sort of say 7 to 8 is the perfect score.

>> those are people measuring in and look how many people say they get more than 8 hours of sleep. that's a really, really low number. most of us are walking around full tilt but there are real shrimp simple thing people can do. i can have a double expresso and go to bed but don't do that in the afternoon. don't take a late afternoon nap . take an early afternoon nap . i think beds are for sleep and sex. they aren't for working on your computer, they aren't for watching tv . if you have a big bright alarm clock next to your bed, that light goes to your brain and disrupts your sleep cycle . make your bedroom as dark and peaceful and quite as possible and as you and i get older that rhythm that allows us to know when we get to sleep gets harder and harder to regulate.

>> so falling asleep clutching your ipad to your heart is not a good idea.

>> you should probably get your favorite stuffy from your childhood which i know is in your bedroom.

>> it is. good advice. now to david.

>> thanks very much. if you're one of the 2 million people over the age of 55 that had a hard time finding a job, the folks at aarp are out with a list of the