How much sleep do we need?

Monday January 28, 2013

With our busy lives and demanding schedules, sleep is often at the bottom of the to-do list. Al­though newborns need the most sleep – 12-18 hours each day – adults may still need 7-9 hours of sleep for optimum health. Evidence is accumulating about the role of sleep in the development and management of chronic diseases. Consider these reasons to make sleep a high priority:

  • Insufficient sleep has been linked to increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Improving the quality and quantity of sleep may improve blood sugar control in those who are already diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
  • High blood pressure, stroke, coronary artery disease, and arrhythmias have been found to be more common in individuals with sleep abnormalities such as sleep apnea.
  • An association between short sleep duration and obesity has been found – and this is particularly pronounced in children. Insufficient sleep in childhood and adolescence may affect the function of the hypothalamus, a region of the brain which regulates appetite and energy expenditure.
  • Sleep and depression share a complex relationship. Some research suggests that symptoms of depression may decrease once sleep disturbances are effectively treated.
  • Behaviors that promote regular, adequate sleep are known as sleep hygiene. Recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation include:
  • Have a regular time to go to bed each night and get up each morning.
  • Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and kept at a comfortable temperature.
  • Remove TVs, computers, and other distractions from the bedroom.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages and foods late in the day. Don’t have a large meal just before bedtime.
  • Exercise may help you sleep, but not if you exercise within a few hours of bedtime.
  • Take time to examine your sleep habits and consider their potential impact on your health!