We all know we need sleep, but many of us do not get enough. Most adults require seven to nine hours of sleep each night, but distractions and bad habits keep us awake.
In fact, 65 percent of all Americans suffer from a sleep disorder such as restless leg syndrome, insomnia, daytime sleepiness, sleep walking or sleep apnea. If left untreated, sleep deprivation can lead to serious health problems.
You may lose sleep for a number of reasons. Stress is the No. 1 cause of sleep deprivation, but physical factors also may be the cause. Pain from arthritis, injuries, backaches or other discomforts can make it difficult to sleep well.
For women, pregnancy, menopause or the menstrual cycle can keep you up at night. Other offenders that deprive us of sleep include noise, too much caffeine consumption and working irregular hours.
Through simple lifestyle changes, you can get a better night's sleep. Try the following tips:
Keep regular sleep hours by going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning, including weekends.
Exercise regularly, but finish at least three hours before bedtime.
Eat healthy, but finish eating at least two to three hours before your regular bedtime.
Keep night-time snacks small or eliminate them.
Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol close to bedtime. Alcohol can deprive you of deep sleep.
Replace sugar and caffeine with healthy snacks such as fruit, vegetables or a granola bar.
If you awake during the night and have problems getting back to sleep after using the bathroom, reduce your fluid intake later in the evening.
Keep naps under 20 minutes in length and don't nap after 5 p.m.
Don't read, watch TV or do work in bed for an extended time.
Try to relax before heading to bed.
Create an environment that promotes sleep - make it quiet, dark and comfortable.
Experts agree that there is no magic number when it comes to amounts of sleep. Not only do different age groups need different amounts of sleep, but sleep needs also can vary individually. One person may feel great on seven hours of sleep, while another may need nine.
Research has shown that sleeping too little not only can hinder your productivity and ability to remember and process information, but lack of sleep also can lead to health issues and endanger your safety.
Inadequate sleep is linked with:
Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents;
Increase in body mass index - a greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation;
Increased risk of diabetes and heart problems;
Increased risk for psychiatric conditions, including depression and substance abuse;
Decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information.
Healthy sleep can greatly reduce the risk of serious health problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Healthy sleep is just as important to your health as exercise and a balanced diet. Better sleep means a healthier, more productive life.
If you struggle with your sleeping habits, talk with your family physician. You can't live life to the fullest without a good night's sleep.
Dolan is a certified physician assistant with Jersey Shore Medical Associates, a partner of Jersey Shore Hospital. She may be reached by calling 753-5000.