Sleep: Why It Matters And 7 Ways To Get More

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Wish you could get a good night's sleep? You're not alone. Although Americans slept eight hours and 44 minutes per day on average in 2013, approximately 70 million — more than one in five of us — suffer from chronic sleep problems, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Research has found that insufficient sleep is linked to a broad range of health problems, including diabetes, obesity, depression, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases, a weakened immune system, even shorter life expectancy. It has been shown to lower the potency of vaccines and has the same effect on grade point average as binge drinking and marijuana use in college students.

"Even one night of sleep deprivation can cause a significant increase in symptoms of anxiety (and) depression in people who don't have other mental health issues," says Larisa R. Wainer, a sleep disorder specialist with the Morris Psychological Group in Parsippany, N.J.

So how much sleep do we really need?

For most adults, the target is seven to nine hours each night. People who sleep fewer than six hours a night have "a very high incidence" of health problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity, says Dr. Robert S. Rosenberg, a sleep medicine specialist at the Sleep Disorders Center of Prescott Valley, Ariz.

And don't rely on naps or sleeping in on the weekends to accumulate your daily total. "That's not good enough," Rosenberg says. You may get your target hours, but fragmented sleep can disrupt your circadian cycle, the body clock's natural cycle of sleepiness and wakefulness.

When tired's not normal

If you don't feel as rested as you should, you may need to see your primary health care provider or try these self-help solutions for better sleep.

  1. Use bedtime routines. Create a healthy sleep routine and stick to it. You'll fall asleep easier and sleep better if you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  2. Create a restful environment. Keep your bedroom cool, quiet and dark to help your body's natural sleep mechanisms. Turn off electronics at least an hour before sleep time. If you can't quit texting and tweeting that early, at least dim the screen, advises Larisa R. Wainer, a sleep specialist with the Morris Psychological Group in Parsippany, N.J.
  3. Learn and practice relaxation techniques. If you have trouble winding down mentally and physically after a busy day, try relaxation techniques until you find one you like and will use. Anxieties and worries that you were too busy to address during the day may break through at bedtime. Don't dwell on them, Wainer says. Use your relaxation techniques to dim their volume so you can get a restful sleep tonight to help you function better tomorrow.
  4. Don't try to catch up. If you have a shortened sleep night, don't try to make up for lost time by napping, going to bed earlier when you're not sleepy or sleeping in later. Resume your normal schedule.
  5. Avoid sleep medicines. They may help short term but they're not for long-term use. People build tolerance to the drugs, Wainer says, which can add to the problem by causing "daytime sleepiness, cognitive impairment and rebound insomnia" when you stop taking them.
  6. Skip caffeine and alcohol. Even a small amount of caffeine, a stimulant, can keep some from falling asleep and disrupt rest when you need to urinate during the night. Alcohol, a depressant, can increase sleep breathing problems such as snoring. Though it may help some people fall asleep at first, it also makes it harder to get back to sleep if you wake up early.
  7. Keep the bedroom a sleep-friendly space. If you don't fall asleep in 15 or 20 minutes, don't let anxieties build. That can create negative sleep habits. Instead, get up, go into another room and do something calming (read, listen to relaxing music) until you wind down enough to try again. Use the bedroom solely for sleep or sex.


It's tough to put a number on sleep.

Research is all over the place to be honest. We've been told 8 or 9 hours, but some research suggests that's damaging.

Some Research suggests 5-6 hours and a nap.

Other research (recent) suggests two sections of 4-5 hours sleep per day.

Turns out out ancestors didn't all have 9-5 jobs. Many of them would spend afternoon hours (read:hot day) resting and would do most of their work at night.

Some people even today prefer to daysleep, and this is probably a natural thing dating back thousands of years.

The problem with research into sleep is that it tries to rationalize good sleep within the context of modern society. The issue is that modern society itself is a confounding factor in terms of finding what is truly optimally healthy.

True healthy sleep probably looks more like sleeping from 2am-6am and from noon-5. But we don't study that, we study how sleep affects people working in cubicles 8 hours a day.


Im good with about 5.5 hours a night.i tell people all the time sleep is overrated because I refuse to sleep 1/3 of my life away (8 hrs a night) and I have way more energy when I sleep 6 hours or less.if im sick with a cold/flu I might go 8 or 9 hrs but that dont happen very often.
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