What are your thoughts on sleep? It seems that people have mixed thoughts and feelings surrounding sleep. What is certain in that sleep occupies about one third of our total lifetime and is a very important biological function. Sleep holds a very important purpose related to the resting of brain function, memory, and learning. For this reason, we must prioritize getting restful sleep. I know people may think sleep is not a big deal. But is not getting enough sleep really that harmful? The answer is, ABSOLUTELY YES! Irish and fellow researchers learned that people who get fewer than eight hours of sleep per night show pronounced cognitive and physical deficits, including memory loss, a reduced ability to make decisions, and delay in attention. The APA found that sleeping less than seven hours per night is associated with increased risk for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, frequent mental distress such as depression, stress, and anxiety. In other words, people who frequently fail to get decent sleep may be decreasing their life expectancy.
If you still need more convincing, according to APA researchers, too little sleep has been linked to increased risk of car crashes, poor work performance, and problems with mood and relationships. A research study by the APA found that younger adults are more likely to say they feel stressed by a lack of sleep. Millennials and Gen Xers are more likely to report feeling sad or depressed because of stress. Other researchers found that adults who sleep fewer than eight hours a night are more likely to report symptoms of stress in the past month, such as feeling irritable or angry, than adults who sleep more than eight hours a night.
Okay, we get it, we NEED sleep. How can we get started you might ask? To encourage health and well-being, Liu and colleagues reported adults aged 18-60 years are recommended to sleep at least seven to eight hours each night. The APA and leading sleep researchers also shared techniques to combat common sleep problems including keeping a regular sleep/wake schedule, minimizing noise, light, and temperature (not too hot/too cold) at night, as well as developing a regular bedtime. Other recommendations include avoid drinking alcohol or caffeine four to six hours before bed and minimize daytime use, avoid smoking before bedtime, and encouraged regular exercise but avoid exercising near bedtime. Well, what if you’re still doing all recommendations and still struggling with insomnia? According to Riemann, if a person has been diagnosed with chronic insomnia, the only treatment that has been shown to have long-term benefit is cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). CBT-I, which involves techniques that work in part by decreasing mind and body stimulation is estimated to be effective in approximately 70% to 80% of people who experience chronic insomnia.
Sleep is part of life. It’s a necessity, not a luxury. I hope we all can take the steps needed to ensure we get a good night’s sleep. Our body will thank us. Let’s get sleeping! (But not on the job).
-Biridiana Baez, Penny Lane Centers
American Psychological Association. (2020, May 14).Why sleep is important and what happens when you don't get enough. https://www.apa.org/topics/sleep/why
American Psychological Association. (2014, February1). More sleep would make us happier, healthier and safer. https://www.apa.org/topics/sleep/deprivation-consequences
American Psychological Association. (2013, January 1).Stress and sleep. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/sleep
Riemann D. Sleep hygiene, insomnia and mental health.J Sleep Res. 2018 Feb;27(1):3. doi: 10.1111/jsr.12661. PMID: 29336095.
Liu Y, Wheaton AG, Chapman DP, Cunningham TJ, Lu H,Croft JB. Prevalence of Healthy Sleep Duration among Adults--United States,2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016 Feb 19;65(6):137-41. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6506a1. PMID: 26890214.
Irish, L. A., Kline, C. E., Gunn, H. E., Buysse, D.J., & Hall, M. H. (2015). The role of sleep hygiene in promoting public health: A review of empirical evidence. Sleep medicine reviews, 22, 23–36.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2014.10.001