Eating better, exercising more, getting our 10,000 steps in, quitting smoking…these are the typical first things we think to do, or are told to do, if we want to become healthier. But there’s a snoozer tip that often gets overlooked: sleep. And plenty of it.
Sleep is one of the first things we sacrifice when we get busy or stressed, or maybe just out having too much fun late at night. But sleep is crucial to good health. Think of getting your ZZZs as Vitamin Z, without which your body’s most basic functions begin to malfunction. The endocrine, metabolic, muscular and immune systems are all impacted by the amount and quality of sleep you get. Not to mention your cognitive well-being. It’s hard to think straight and make smart decisions when you’re foggy with fatigue.
Nearly one-third of Americans, according to the National Sleep Foundation, get less than the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night. That makes for a weary, and dangerous nation. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a wake-up call, touting insufficient sleep as a public health epidemic.
“As a sleep doctor, I see a lot of sleepy people, and in general, if you’re sleepy, you’re not getting enough sleep,” says Dr. James Carswell, a Roper St. Francis affiliated pulmonologist and board certified specialist in sleep medicine. He explains that a chronic sleep deficit can impact your metabolism and mood, and is correlated with type 2 diabetes and obesity, as well as depression and cardiovascular disease.
How much sleep does the National Sleep Foundation recommend for you? It depends on your age:
- Teens, 14 to 17 years old: 8 to 10 hours per day
- Young adults, 18 to 25 years old: 7 to 9 hours per day
- Adults, 26 to 64 years old: 7 to 9 hours per day
- Older adults, 65 and above: 7 to 8 hours per day
Need tips to get more ZZZs? Here are five suggestions for better sleep:
- Establish a routine. Be consistent with what time you go to bed and wake up.
- Invest in a good mattress and pillow.
- Adjust the temperature. Between 60 and 67 degrees is recommended.
- Keep lights out. Use only dim (50 watts or less) in the hour or so before bed. Use blackout curtains if your home is surrounded by exterior lights.
- Be screen smart. Make your bedroom a no-screen/digital device zone.