Have you ever felt tired when you wake up in the morning or do you feel extremely sleepy in the afternoon? Do you get enough sleep? According to the
Institute of Medicine, the average adult needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep. However, studies show that in 2012 in the United States, only 70% of adults received sufficient sleep. That means that 30% of adults aren’t getting quality sleep every night! Check out the chart below to see how many hours of sleep you should be getting.
What Happens When We Sleep:
Although scientists aren’t exactly sure why we sleep, they have many ideas about the
functions of sleep. Here are a couple of important functions that happen during sleep:
- The cells in your body repair themselves
- Important hormones related to growth are released in children and boost muscle mass in adults
- Your body is able to conserve energy
- The cardiovascular system, including your heart, is given a chance to rest and recuperate
- Important functions in the brain enhance learning and memory
- Immune system is boosted
Harvard Medical School’s website for more information!
Getting enough sleep improves our overall health. Sleep affects our mental, emotional, and physical health so it is very important to get the recommended hours of sleep for your age to stay healthy. Check out the list below to see why sleep is so important.
Benefits of sleep:
- Won’t be as likely to get sick
- Your body will be more likely to maintain a healthy weight
- Increase in cognitive ability and mood
- Ability to think more clearly and do better at work and school
- More energy
- Improved memory function
Who doesn't want all these benefits? The most important thing to remember is that sleep is not just a nice luxury, it’s a necessity! View this video on why sleep is one of the most important things we can do for our health.
How important is sleep?
Along with the benefits of getting adequate sleep, you may experience side effects if you don’t get enough sleep.
Side Effects of Sleep Deprivation:
Short-term side effects of sleep deprivation include:
- Decreased cognitive ability
- Decreased precision in performance
- Longer reaction time
- Decreased higher level cognitive capacity even with stimulant use (such as caffeine) (Kilgore, 2010)
Short-term side effects can be dangerous, especially if a person is driving or operating machinery. The longer a person is awake, the more dangerous it becomes. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation reports that
being awake for 18 hours is equal to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%, which is the legal limit for alcohol consumption. Follow this
link to play a short game and find out how sleep deprivation can affect your daily performance. The longer your reaction time is, the more errors you will make, and that can have disastrous results especially when a high level of concentration is required for a task.
In addition to the short-term side effects, if a person consistently gets less than the needed 7 to 8 hours of sleep over time, they accrue sleep debt. After days, weeks, or months of getting less sleep than needed, a person may develop additional side effects.
Long-term side effects of sleep deprivation include:
- Increased blood pressure (Palagini et al., 2013)
- Increased risk of heart attack
- Decreased immune system function and increased inflammation (AlDabal & Bahammam, 2011)
- Impaired glucose tolerance which is a precursor to diabetes
- Increased tendency to gain weight
- Mental distress, anxiety, depression, and other emotional disorders
relative risk of dying, compared to the general population (Institute of Medicine, 2006)
Getting enough sleep can be a daunting task especially when our busy lives and schedules seem to take over, but you CAN make small changes that will improve your health and well-being in the long run. Follow these guidelines from the
National Sleep Foundation for designing an environment conducive to sleep:
Here are some additional tips to help you fall asleep:
- Exercise early in the day and avoid exercising late at night right before bed
- Don’t drink anything with caffeine late in the day
- Avoid eating a big meal close to bedtime
- Be consistent with the time you go to sleep and wake up
- Drink alcohol in moderation
If you try these tips and still feel extremely tired during the day or have difficulty sleeping, you may have a sleeping disorder. Schedule an appointment with your doctor to see what they can do to help you!
AlDabal, L., & Bahammam, A. S. (2011). Metabolic, Endocrine, and Immune Consequences of Sleep Deprivation. The Open Respiratory Medicine Journal, 31-43.
Kilgore, W. (2010). Effects of sleep deprivation on cognition. Prog Brain Res, 105-129.
National Research Council. (2006). Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. In H. R. Colten, & B. M. Altevogt. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Palagini, L., Bruno, R., Gemignani, A., Baglioni, C., Ghiadoni, L., & Riemann, D. (2013). Sleep loss and hypertension: a systematic review. Curr Pharm Des, 2409-2419.