According to recent research from the Sleep Foundation, 35.2% of all adults in the U.S. report sleeping on average for less than seven hours per night. In addition, women have a lifetime risk of insomnia that is as much as 40% higher than that of men. Knowing these facts, take a moment to read about the benefits of getting good sleep and tips for improving the quality of your nightly rest.
Dr. Charletta Dennis, Medical Director for Priority Health, explains that despite the common myth that people can learn to get by on little sleep with no negative effects, research shows that getting enough quality sleep at the right times is vital for mental health, physical health, quality of life and safety. Good sleep quality, she says, is typically defined by your ability to fall asleep soon after getting into bed and your ability to sleep through the night, with no more than one wake-up per night, and an overall goal for your sleep to be restful and restorative.
"Although the amount of sleep you get each day is important, other aspects of your sleep also contribute to your health and well-being," Dr. Dennis said. "Signs of poor sleep quality include not feeling rested even after getting enough sleep, repeatedly waking up during the night, and experiencing symptoms of sleep disorders, such as snoring or gasping for air."
And while everyone wants a good night's sleep, many don't manage to get it (one in three, according to the CDC). But why?
Dr. Dennis explains that people often cut back on their sleep for work, family demands or to even watch a good show on TV. Other common factors include:
• Drinking too much caffeine or alcohol.
• An irregular sleep schedule.
• Some prescription drugs, like diuretics, which can increase the need to go to the bathroom.
• Sleep disorders, like insomnia.
• Mental health disorders like depression and anxiety, which can lead to racing thoughts or the inability to relax.
Neglecting to get quality sleep over time can have lasting effects and may have differing symptoms between children and adults.
"Children who are sleep deficient might be overly active and have problems paying attention. They also might misbehave, and their school performance can suffer," Dr. Dennis shared. "Sleep deficiency in adults is linked to many chronic health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity and depression."
When it comes to solutions to getting better sleep, Dr. Dennis says it's about more than the total number of hours you get each night, offering insight into some habits that can improve one's sleep health, sometimes referred to as sleep hygiene.
"Be consistent. Go to bed at the same time every day and get up at the same time every day, including on the weekends," Dr. Dennis suggested. "Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing and at a comfortable temperature for you. Remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers and smart phones from the bedroom."
She also recommends avoiding large meals, caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, in addition to finding time to be physically active during the day, which can help you fall asleep more easily at night.
Benefits to getting good sleep abound, including a better mood and immune system, improved physical health, restored energy, improved memory, good decision-making and avoiding injuries.
"Quality sleep can also lower your risk for serious health problems, like diabetes and heart disease," Dr. Dennis said. "Children who get quality sleep are more likely to do better in school and adults are more likely to do better at work."
It's important to note that how much sleep you need changes as you age.
"Because sleep contributes to growth, newborns, infants and toddlers require more sleep, ranging from 14-17 hours per 24 hours," Dr. Dennis said. "School-age children should get 9-12 hours, teens should get 8-10 hours and adults 18 and older should get 7 or more hours of sleep per night."
If you're a Priority Health member, you can access the free Priority Health Wellbeing Hub, which has tools and information to help you make positive changes in your life, such as understanding sleep habits and how to get better sleep. You can also visit thinkhealth.priorityhealth.com, Priority Health's online journal, for additional tips and resources on health and well-being.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.