Do you know how much sleep you get a night? Are you one of the lucky people who gets the recommended 7-8 hours, or do you usually make do with 5-6 (or less)? In today’s world of 24/7 communication, sleep can be a luxury when the work day continues even after getting home, or seem like a waste of time—after all, there are countless TV shows to watch, blogs and news feeds to read and e-mails to send.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that about a third of Americans don’t get enough sleep. Back in December, the Boston Globe had an article suggesting getting enough sleep as a New Year’s resolution. Last month the Washington Post ran a special feature devoted to sleep, and the National Sleep Foundation designated March 7-13, 2011 as National Sleep Awareness Week® in an effort to raise awareness of the importance of sleep. We all sleep, so why all this attention on something so, well, ordinary?
Sleep is a necessary part of life and the amount and quality of sleep you get each night touches on nearly every aspect of waking life. Probably the most obvious benefit of getting a good night’s sleep is feeling rested and refreshed the next morning. Getting enough sleep at night can stave off drowsiness and fatigue the next day and improve concentration, learning and memory. Beyond that, regular adequate sleep helps support the immune system, making it easier for the body to resist illness and fight infection.
On a much grander scale, too little sleep may be a contributing factor to weight gain and obesity. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation affects the levels of two hormones that regulate appetite—leptin and ghrelin—which may prompt overeating, especially of high calorie foods. Maintaining a healthy weight can help lower blood pressure and reduce risk of heart attack or stroke; so a good night’s sleep is just as important as diet and exercise in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
As important as a restful night’s sleep is, there are a number of sleep disorders that can interfere with falling asleep and staying asleep. Sleep apnea, for example, is a condition where breathing stops briefly while asleep. These interruptions in breathing occur multiple times throughout the night, and can make it difficult to get a sound night’s sleep. Risk factors for developing sleep apnea include smoking, being overweight and narrowing or obstructions in the airways.
Do you wake up feeling tired in the morning? Does your spouse complain about your snoring? Sleep apnea is common in people with Type 2 Diabetes; talk to your healthcare provider if you have difficulty sleeping. Stop by the National Sleep Foundation’s website for tips and suggestions for developing healthy sleep habits.