We all know a good night’s sleep makes you feel better, but its importance goes beyond boosting your mood or banishing under-eye circles. In fact, sleep is just as important as eating healthy and exercising.
Many people think they’re getting enough sleep because they’re able to function and go about their normal lives. But, over time, if you’re not getting enough sleep, research shows you’re paying the price with your health and the quality of your life.
How much sleep is enough?
Adults 18 to 60 years should be sleeping at least seven hours a night, according to the Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society. But a comprehensive 2016 CDC study found that more than one-third of the adults reported sleeping less than seven hours in a 24-hour period.
Why does it matter if you sleep less?
Short-changing yourself of sleep has impacts far greater than you may have imagined. Too little sleep can affect your:
- Quality of life: Lack of sleep causes mental and physical fatigue and places a huge stress on the body and overall mood. Depression is strongly linked to poor sleep.
- Brain function: Your brain and thinking processes undergo changes when you don’t get enough sleep. Memory, concentration, problem solving and decision making are all compromised.
- Safety: Each year, drowsy driving crashes result in at least 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in financial losses. Young people in their teens and twenties are involved in over half of the fall-asleep crashes each year.
- Health: Poor sleep or sleep disorders have been linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and premature aging. Several studies show that not getting enough sleep is connected to weight gain and makes it harder for individuals with diabetes to manage their blood sugar levels.
What culprits rob us of sleep?
- Aging: Sleep patterns often change as we age, resulting in decreased sleep efficiency, less REM Dream sleep and more insomnia.
- Poor sleep habits: Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine delays sleep onset and reduces total sleep time. Half of American adults consume high amounts (over 300 mg) of caffeine daily. Add to that, a myriad of electronic screens in the bedroom, and bad sleep hygiene really takes a toll.
- Chronic pain: 15% of all adults experience chronic pain, which leads to lighter sleep and insomnia. And ironically, lack of sleep in turn makes pain worse.
- Coach potato syndrome: As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, can dramatically improve the quality of your nighttime sleep.
- Sleep apnea: This is an increasingly common disorder in which breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep, caused by a collapse of the airway.
It’s easy to feel like the odds are stacked against you. With today’s busy lifestyles, it can be challenging to find time to fit in more sleep. But rest assured, it can be done.
Follow these simple steps, and you’ll be on your way to getting a better night’s sleep:
- Have a regular bedtime routine and keep regular sleep times.
- Exercise regularly, but finish your workout at least 3 hours before bedtime.
- Avoid foods and drinks high in caffeine for at least eight hours prior to bedtime, and avoid alcohol for a few hours before bedtime.
- Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing and at a comfortable temperature.
- Limit consumption of food and liquids 1-2 hours before bedtime.
To find out if you have sleep apnea or other sleep issues that better sleep habits alone won’t fix, take this free online sleep quiz. You’ll receive a summary report that you can share with your health care provider if you have concerns about your results.
Visit one of our sleep centers to start resting better:
Providence Sleep Disorders Center – Newberg
Providence Sleep Disorders Center-St. Vincent
Providence Sleep Disorders Center-Portland
Providence Sleep Disorders Center-Milwaukie
Providence Sleep Disorders Center – Medford