Getting Enough Sleep Really Isn't Optional

Did you know that more than a third of American adults aren’t getting enough sleep? According to Ann Romaker, M.D., the average adult requires 7 to 7 ½ hours of sleep per night, while teens and young adults need as much as 9 to 10 hours per night. If you’re not sleeping enough, it can affect your cognitive performance and even lead to a variety of health issues. Learn why sleep is so vital to your health and how to set yourself up for a good night’s rest.

Tired woman drinking coffee in the morning

How sleep affects your health

Research has found that lack of sleep can lead to a wide range of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, stroke and memory loss. Why such a strong connection between sleep and your health?

Dr. Romaker explains it well. “There are sleep-related genes in every tissue of the body — genes that turn on only during sleep and genes that turn on only when you are awake … The genes in the heart and lungs that turn on during sleep are genes that are needed for repair. The genes that turn on during the day have more to do with power and endurance. If you don’t get enough sleep, your heart and lungs don’t repair like they are supposed to.”

She continues, “Sleep also affects memory, and different stages of sleep are required for different types of memory … Memory is much better if you study and then sleep versus if you stay up all night.”

Tips for getting a good night’s sleep

By making just a few simple lifestyle changes, such as setting a routine sleep schedule and removing electronics from the bedroom, you can improve your quality of sleep, says Wayne Giles, M.D. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Sleep and rise at the same time.
    • Even on weekends, sticking to a routine schedule helps regulate your internal body clock so you sleep throughout the night.
  2. Develop a bedtime ritual.
    • A relaxing activity helps your body mentally prepare for sleep.
  3. Remove electronics from the bedroom.
    • Besides stimulating the mind, the blue light they emit suppresses the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin.
  4. Keep your bedroom cool.
    • A room between 60 and 67 degrees induces a mild drop in body temperature, which helps you reach a deeper level of sleep.
  5. Exercise every day.
    • Exercise reduces anxiety, and the post-exercise drop in body temperature helps promote sleep.
  6. Make your room as dark as possible.
    • Keeping out light is essential to quality sleep; consider blackout shades, curtains or even a sleep mask.
  7. Invest in a quality mattress.
    • Ideally, you should replace your mattress every nine or 10 years, and make sure it’s free from allergens.
  8. Avoid alcohol before bed.
    • While alcohol may initially make you tired, it disrupts your sleep and may cause you to wake in the middle of the night.

If you find you’re still having problems getting enough quality sleep, make sure to talk to your health care provider.

Author
Denver Health Medical Plan Staff Writer