Why is sleep important?

Quality sleep – and getting enough of it – is as essential to survival as food and water. It is vital to good health and well-being.

Sleep affects almost every type of tissue and system in the body – from the brain, heart, and lungs to metabolism, immune function, disease resistance and mood. Studies show that a good night’s sleep improves learning, helps you pay attention, make decisions, and be creative. Sleep is essential for forming and consolidating memories and learning new skills. Recent findings suggest that sleep even plays a housekeeping role that removes toxins in your brain that build up while you are awake.

Sleep supports healthy growth and development and is involved in the healing process, boosting your immune system, and recovering from the day’s activities.

Research shows that not getting enough sleep places a tremendous strain on your body and overall health. Chronic lack of sleep, or getting poor quality sleep, increases the risk of developing certain disorders such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, dementia, cancer and obesity.

How much sleep do I need?

Sleep and sleep patterns change as you age and vary among individuals, so there is no magic number of hours that works for everybody of the same age.  Babies initially sleep as much as 16 to 18 hours per day, which may boost growth and development.  School-age children and teen-agers need on average about 9.5 hours of sleep per night.  Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night.  After age 60, nighttime sleep tends to be shorter, lighter, and interrupted by multiple awakenings.

It is important to get not only enough sleep but also good-quality sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep can help you do well in school, at work, and in sports. Good sleep helps you look and feel refreshed.  When people are asked to rate how attractive someone is, they tend to rate people who are well rested as more attractive.

What are some tips for getting a good night's sleep?

  • Keep a regular sleep / wake schedule – go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day but no later than a few hours before going to bed.
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine 4 to 6 hours before bed and minimize daytime use.
  • Don’t smoke, especially near bedtime or if you awake in the night.
  • Avoid alcohol and heavy meals before sleep.
  • Relax before bed – try a warm bath, reading, or another relaxing routine.
  • Create a room for sleep – avoid bright lights and loud sounds, keep the room at a comfortable temperature, and don’t watch TV or have a computer in your bedroom.
  • Don’t lie in bed awake.  If you can’t get to sleep, do something else, like reading or listening to music, until you feel tired.
  • See your physician if you are having difficulty sleeping or if you feel unusually tired during the day.  Most sleep disorders can be treated effectively.