Let’s be honest. Not everything that is good for you is fun to do. That’s why it is great to find an activity that feels good, is relatively easy to do and is good for us – like sleep.
Of course, a lot of us have such busy lives and such a challenging time balancing the demands of work with spending time with family and friends, exercising, eating right etc. that sleep is often the first area of our life that we short-change. Many people think sleeping at least seven hours a night is an area of our health that we can afford to compromise.
Recent studies, however, confirm something that I have long known in the more than 30 years I spent as a family physician: a full night’s sleep is an essential part of maintaining good health.
Unfortunately, many of us are neglecting this part of our health. According to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, “Short Sleep Duration Among Workers – United States, 2010,” about 40.6 million workers (or 30 percent of the workforce) get less than six hours of sleep daily. Workers in manufacturing and those who work night shifts typically average even less.
If you drive, getting enough sleep can mean the difference between life and death when you are out on the road. Based on a survey conducted in the spring of 2010, AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that 41percent of drivers admit to having “fallen asleep or nodded off” while driving. Moreover, when AAA looked at crash data collected between 1999 and 2008, it found that 16.5 percent of fatal crashes involved a drowsy driver.
Besides enabling you to think more clearly and function more effectively, getting enough sleep also helps keep your memory sharp, your blood pressure down and your heart strong.
In the long term, good sleep can also help you live longer, as insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases, including diabetes, cancer and obesity.
Not getting enough sleep affects not only your physical health but your mental health as well. A lack of sleep can make depression deeper, stressful feelings worse and anxiety more extreme.
What can you, as an individual, do to enhance your sleep health? Most importantly, aim to get the right amount of sleep for your age group.
According to the National Sleep Foundation:
• Most adults require seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
• School children age 5 to 12 years require nine to 11 hours.
• Adolescents age 11 to 17 years need 8.5 to 9.5 hours each night to feel fully rested.
Getting a good sleep is one of the easiest ways to protect your health, so treat yourself tonight.