Sleep Matters

Good rest is good for you. Don't deprive yourself.

Do you pride yourself on being able to “get by” on just a few hours of sleep a night? In fact, it’s nothing to crow about. Lack of sleep can lead to health issues both large and small.

According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), sleeping too little can cause you to put on weight because sleep deprivation increases appetite. It can also raise your risk for diabetes, heart problems and depression. Not getting enough rest can impair your attention and retention skills, too, and lead to an increased chance of car accidents.

Adults who sleep less than seven hours a night even have greater odds of getting a cold compared to people who sleep eight hours or more a night, says a study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

What’s Enough?

The NSF says healthy adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. Plus, quality is just as important as quantity. Waking up frequently and having a hard time getting back to sleep, may cause a “sleep debt” that can be harmful over time.

If you do shift work or travel across time zones a lot, it’s also likely you’re not getting the quality of sleep your body needs. Other conditions that aggravate sound slumber include insomnia, sleep apnea—a condition in which you stop breathing for several seconds—or restless leg syndrome, which causes unusual feelings or jerking movements in your legs.

How to Get More ZZZs

For most people, simple changes can help a lot. If you try the tips listed below and still can’t sleep well, you may want to talk to your doctor.

For better sleep:

  • Don’t consume caffeine or alcohol in the late afternoon and evening, and don’t smoke.
  • Get regular exercise, but call it quits at least three hours before bedtime.
  • Don’t nap during the day if you have trouble sleeping at night.
  • Create a pleasant, comfortable, dark and quiet sleeping environment.
  • Develop a bedtime routine that lets you relax, sending a signal to your brain that it’s sleep time. Try listening to soothing music or taking a hot bath before bed. 

Also, don’t discount the tried-and-true counting sheep method. Counting, or focusing on any repetitive notion, may quiet your mind and distract you from any worries, letting you ease into your ZZZs.

 

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