Are you sleeping enough? People who do not sleep enough know it. In fact, in the United States, 40 percent of adults and 70 percent of teens report not getting enough sleep. Not sleeping enough and getting poor sleep is linked to physical and mental health conditions. Researchers are providing mounting evidence for the importance of sleep. Scientists are also discovering what you can do to get a good night’s rest.
The Cost of Poor Sleep
A lack of sleep results in tiredness the next day, but chronic sleep debt is linked to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, and Alzheimer’s. One of sleep’s most important functions is maintaining the brain. The brain uses sleep time to remove harmful chemicals.
“The brain requires a kind of cleanup process that we’re beginning to glimpse. Without taking out the trash, you’re going to find that the next day, your brain is not functioning at its best,” states Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.
A few studies show that lack of sleep inhibits normal emotional regulation. One recent study found that a lack of sleep is associated with an overactive emotional response to food. This means that tired people are more likely to indulge in comfort foods. Another study revealed that bosses tended to have a worse temperament with their staff after a poor night’s sleep.
Tips for Better Sleeping
If you want to sleep better each night, follow these research-based tips:
- Prioritize sleep. Make time in your night for enough sleep. Most adults need six to eight hours of sleep and teenagers require nine or more hours each night. Studies show that adults who sleep less than six hours per night put their health at risk.
- Sleep consistently. For best results, go to bed at the same time each night. This helps cue your body to feel sleepy at bedtime. If you struggle to get to bed on time, try setting a reminder or an alarm.
- Get help. If you are not sleeping well or feel tired during the day, talk to your doctor about what you can do to feel rested. Research demonstrates that behavioral changes are more effective for sleep health in the long-term than medication. Ask your doctor for ways to change your habits before asking for a prescription.
- Exercise regularly. By implementing a regular exercise routine, you can help your body feel ready to sleep in the evenings.
- Turn it off. Shut off your electronic devices at least an hour before bed. The blue screen from phones, computers, and televisions disrupts the brain’s sleep cues. Instead of more screen time, try reading or taking an evening walk.
This research is from the National Geographic Channel in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
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