You are using an older version of Internet Explorer that is not supported on this site. Please upgrade for the best experience.

Sleep Health

Why Is Sleep Health Important?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. While rare, some adults may only need as little as five hours or as much as 10 hours a night of sleep. The key is that you wake up feeling refreshed whatever amount of sleep you get. Getting enough sleep and good quality sleep helps you maintain good health function during the day. Sleep affects every part of our lives, including health, safety, mood, learning, appearance, relationships and productivity.

People who sleep well are more likely to:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Have a stronger immune system to fight off infection and illness.
  • Experience greater energy throughout the day.
  • Have better concentration and memory.
  • Make fewer errors.
  • Have a more positive outlook on life and feel happier.

The risks of poor sleep accumulate over time and can lead to serious health conditions including:

  • Weight Gain and Obesity
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Heart Disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Gum Disease
  • Reflux (GERD)

In addition to these health risks there is an increased risk for accidents and injuries. A few statistics from the National Sleep Foundation report:

  • About 20% of all serious car crashes are linked to driver sleepiness.
  • Those who get less than five hours of sleep have 4.5 times the risk of being in a sleep-related car crash.
  • Workers with severe insomnia make 2.5 times more serious work errors than people who get proper sleep.

How to Sleep Well

Sleep hygiene is a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness. The most important sleep hygiene measure is to maintain a regular sleep and wake pattern seven days a week.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, “it is also important to spend an appropriate amount of time in bed, not too little, or too excessive. This can vary from person to person. For example, if someone has a problem with daytime sleepiness, they should spend a minimum of eight hours in bed, if they have difficulty sleeping at night, they should limit themselves to seven hours in bed in order to keep the sleep pattern consolidated.” Some sleep issues may require further evaluation from a sleep specialist. If you need further assistance, speak with your health care provider.

Practice Proper Sleep Hygiene with these Tips:

  • Keep regular sleep/wake times. Try to go to bed and wake from sleep at the same time every day of the week.    
  • Establish a regular pre-sleep routine. Plan ways to wind-down. Read, listen to music, brush your teeth, take a bath, relax with mild yoga, etc.
  • Develop relaxation techniques. Keep stress out of the bedroom. Meditation, deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation are effective techniques. Try to avoid emotionally upsetting conversations, activities, TV shows, etc. before bed. Don't dwell on, or bring your problems to bed.
  • Maintain a dark, quiet environment. Light triggers the body to awake, even the light from an alarm clock.
  • Keep the bedroom temperature cool. One trigger for sleep is when the body’s core temperature drops.
  • Get regular exercise. Regular exercise can promote healthy sleep, but avoid exercise right before bedtime. Experts recommend exercising at least three hours before bedtime. Some relaxing exercise like yoga can be done before bed.
  • If unable to fall sleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed until sleepy. Do a restful activity out of your bed like reading or journaling your “worries.” Clear your mind and relax your body for falling back to sleep.
  • Set the alarm but hide the clock so you can’t see the time. Being aware of the time can create anxiety making it more difficult to fall back to sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol near bedtime. Although alcohol can help you fall asleep it actually causes more awakenings during the night and much less restful sleep.
  • Avoid nicotine. Nicotine is a stimulant and can disrupt sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine at least 6 hours before bed. A lack of sleep can trigger the desire for caffeine but the more caffeine you consume the more difficult it becomes to sleep at night.
  • Naps can disrupt night time sleep. A short nap (20-30 minutes) is OK for those who are able to sleep through the night. This type of nap provides significant benefit for improved alertness and performance without leaving you feeling groggy or interfering with nighttime sleep. But, avoid longer naps that can interfere with night time sleep.
  • Give your pet his own bed. Although dogs and cats can be great to snuggle with in bed they are often responsible for disrupting our sleep throughout the night.

How Sleepy Are You?  

Take this short self-assessment to find out if your sleeping within normal range or if it might be time to talk with your doctor or a sleep specialist about taking steps to improve your sleep.    

Shift Work Sleep Disorder

Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD) is a sleep disorder that affects people who frequently work at night or rotate shifts. The human body wants to maintain regular sleep and wake patterns seven days a week. Shift work schedules work against the body’s natural circadian rhythm. Learn more here.