Chances are you’re not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. That’s the case for more than one-third of American adults, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“When you look at the general population, self-imposed sleep deprivation is a common problem,” said Dr. Lucie Lauve of Novant Health Winston Neurology in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
With so many distractions, it can be hard to make sleep a priority. But it is important for your overall health.
“Life is hard,” Lauve said. “When you have a population of people who are taking care of their parents or people who are single parents, it makes it difficult for adults to get enough sleep. Personal commitments and societal issues tend to interfere.”
Lack of sleep tied to chronic conditions
Several studies show that people with chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity are not sleeping enough.
“High blood pressure and weight gain can be tied to lack of sleep,” Lauve said. “Those who don’t get an adequate amount of sleep have a stronger likelihood of having abnormal glucose levels, which could lead to a development of type 2 diabetes.”
Lauve also said that those who snore loudly and are overweight could be a risk for sleep apnea. If you believe you are getting an adequate amount of sleep and still don’t feel rested, you may find it beneficial to get screened.
“People who have sleep apnea are relatively sleep deprived because they aren’t getting to a good deep sleep,” Lauve said. “Science shows that when you don’t get quality sleep, your metabolism slows down, which makes you heavier and at risk for even worse quality sleep. It’s a dangerous cycle of becoming more tired and heavier.”
Tips to improve your sleep
There are many lifestyle and behavioral changes you can make to improve your sleep patterns. Lauve suggested the following:
- Adjust your bedroom temperature. “Studies have shown that the best temperature range for sleeping should be in the upper 60s degrees or lower 70s degrees,” Lauve said.
- Stick to a regular bedtime routine. “Regular bedtimes and rise times are important,” she said. “A lot of people stay up really late during the week and then sleep in on the weekends as a way to ‘catch up.’ This makes it really hard for your body to regulate your circadian rhythms.”
- Avoid alcohol close to bedtime. “Most people think alcohol will help them fall asleep faster,” Lauve said. “But it actually disrupts your sleep pattern. It’s easier to fall asleep, but when the alcohol metabolizes, it wakes you up.”
- Don’t exercise close to bedtime. “Exercise is great for sleep hygiene, but not within an hour before you go to bed,” she said. “Exercising too close to bedtime can actually keep you awake.”
- Avoid cellphone/electronic device use in bed. “Technology has been a huge issue that negatively affects sleep hygiene,” Lauve said. “The biggest variable that tells your brain when it’s time to go to sleep is exposure to light. Most electronic devices are backlit with blue light. When people are constantly on their electronic devices, the blue light disrupts their circadian rhythms and keeps them awake. One solution is to download an app that filters blue light.”
- Stay away from caffeine after lunch. “Some individuals can tolerate caffeine better than others,” she said. “But you should try to slowly taper the use of caffeine by early afternoon.”
Sleep recommendations for different age groups
So how much sleep should you be getting each night?
“There is a Goldilocks equation for adults,” Lauve said. “Less than seven hours of sleep is associated with a whole series of serious health problems. But on the other hand, more than nine hours is not thought to be healthy either.”
The National Sleep Foundation and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommend different sleep times for different age groups. They include:
- Newborn, 14 to 17 hours.
- Infant, 12 to 15 hours.
- Toddler, 11 to 14 hours.
- Preschool age, 10 to 13 hours.
- School age, 9 to 11 hours.
- Teen, 8 to 10 hours.
- Young adult, 7 to 9 hours.
- Adult, 7 to 9 hours.
- Older adult, 7 to 8 hours.
For more information about Novant Health’s sleep services, visit NovantHealth.org/sleep.
Updated on: 3/15/2017