Along with nutrition and exercise, sleep is one of the three pillars of a healthy lifestyle. In the US more than 40% of us get less than seven hours of sleep each night. It’s not healthy to be drained and fatigued throughout the day. Many of us reach for caffeinated beverages or energy drinks to provide some energy, but it’s certainly way too common. For many of us, fatigue has been accepted as a part of our daily life.
Now, a new study jolts us back to reality. Sleeping six or fewer hours per night is inadequate to sustain health and safety in adults. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and research find adults need seven or more hours of sleep to maintain optimal health.
According to the AASM getting less than 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis increases your risk of several adverse health outcomes. Health problems linked to not sleeping enough:
- weight gain and obesity
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- impaired immune system
- increased risk of death
Sleeping less than 7 hours per night also can impair your performance. You have an increased risk of errors and accidents when you are not sleeping enough each night.
Exactly how much is right for you?
Some adults may need a sleep duration of more than 9 hours per night. Long sleepers may include young adults and those who have a chronic illness. A small percentage of adults are short sleepers who feel alert and refreshed after sleeping less than 6 hours per night. Genetic factors help determine how much you need. But 7 hours is the best starting point for adults. Make it one of your top health priorities to sleep at least 7 hours each night.
Tips for healthy sleep:
- Create a regular sleep cycle by trying to go to bed at the same time every night.
- The bedroom is your sleeping sanctuary, it should be quit and relaxing, and maintained at a cool comfortable temperature.
- Your bedroom is for sleeping, avoid watching television in bed or using your notebook in bed. Spending a short time reading (from a book or magazine) can be a way to unwind.
- Invest in a good quality mattress to properly support your spine. I prefer a memory foam mattress. If you think you may have a sleep disorder, see your doctor about your concerns.
- Avoid using your cell phone as an alarm clock. Sleeping is a great way to be off-line from technology.
- Choose late night snacks sensibly and avoid eating anything for at least two hours before going to bed.
Dangers of Sleep Deprivation
According to the National Institutes of Health 50 to 70 million Americans are affected by chronic sleep disorders. Untreated sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, heart disease, stroke, depression, diabetes and other chronic diseases.
Sleep disorders impact your job performance, relationships with friends and family and may lead to behavior issues. Sleep deprivation is a serious problem but many of us are not even aware that we suffer from it.
It may seem obvious that sleep is beneficial. Even without fully grasping what sleep does for us, we know that going without sleep for too long makes us feel terrible, and that getting a good night’s sleep can make us feel ready to take on the world.