Sleep is important for your health and well-being. Getting enough sleep can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life and safety. Damage from sleep deficiency can occur instantly and it can harm you over time. Ongoing sleep deficits can lead to chronic health problems such as heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes. Studies show that sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain. If you're sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression, suicide and risk-taking behavior.
How to Get Those Zzzzzs
The amount of sleep you need changes over the course of your life. As you get older, the recommended amount of sleep decreases, however, this can depend on the individual. The average adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep per day, which can be difficult to achieve with busy schedules. If you routinely lose sleep or choose to sleep less than needed, the sleep loss accumulates. For example, if you lose two hours of sleep each night, you'll have a sleep deficit of 14 hours at the end of the week.
One way to get enough sleep is to listen to your body and sleep when you know you need it. If your eyes are closing while you are reading or watching TV, stop your activity and go to bed. It is also recommended to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, especially during the week. Being physically active, having quiet time before bed, and keeping your room dark and cold are all factors that can help you fall asleep.
Bottom Line: You may not notice how sleep deficiency affects your daily routine. A common myth is that people can learn to get by on little sleep with no negative effects. However, research shows that getting enough quality sleep is vital for mental health, physical health, quality of life and safety.
Written by: Emelie Buell, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern
Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute