By Laura Tran, C2ST Intern, Rush University
Do you get enough sleep? Chances are the answer is no.
Over one-third¹ of American adults aren’t getting enough shut-eye. Many of us juggle busy schedules, family and friends, and other responsibilities that can stress us out and keep us from getting enough rest.
In 1998, The National Sleep Foundation created a week-long event, called Sleep Awareness Week, to promote better sleep for our overall health and well-being. It begins at the start of daylight saving time (this year on March 13th), a time when many of us lose an hour of sleep as we “spring forward”. Although daylight savings is not ubiquitously observed worldwide, this event is a great reminder for us to get well-deserved rest.
The amount of sleep you need² changes as you age. For example, school children (ages 6-12) are recommended to get 9-12 hours of sleep compared to adults (ages 18-60) who are recommended to get at least 7 hours a night. However, sleep is not just a number! There are other aspects of sleep to consider, like the quality of your sleep. You might not wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed because you tossed and turned all night or even experienced symptoms of sleep disorders (e.g., snoring or gasping for air from sleep apnea).
Insufficient sleep can lead to a number of problems³, such as a higher risk of disease (e.g., obesity, heart disease, diabetes) or poor mental health (e.g., depression). Lack of sleep can also seriously impair your driving and your productivity at work.
So how can we get better sleep?
- Consistency is key. It’s important to have a regular sleeping schedule. Try to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends, and give yourself at least 7-9 hours of sleep.
- Avoid the late-night munchies. Many of us are guilty of this (myself included!), but try to have your meals 2-3 hours before bedtime.
- Be “unplugged” before you head to bed. The blue light from our phones, TVs, and computers can block your body from producing melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone responsible for making us sleepy, so power off those devices.
- Set the mood in the bedroom. Sleep on comfortable and supportive mattresses and pillows. Keep your room dark and cool, so you can fall asleep faster.
- Make other lifestyle changes! Snoring and sleep apnea can be alleviated by sleeping on your side. However, moderate to severe sleep apnea may require the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. This will keep air pressure greater than the surrounding air and keep your upper airway passages open, preventing apnea and snoring.
We often fail to consider the consequences of poor sleeping habits. Sleep Awareness Week is a great reminder for us to improve our sleep habits and our overall health. But why stop there since we already spend nearly one-third of our lives sleeping? Let’s grab our comfiest blanket and be prepared to catch some well-deserved zzz’s in 2022!