Sleep is important for mind and body, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is getting as much shut-eye as they should. With work, family or even late night TV, sleep may not always come easily.
Benefits of sleep
Sleep deficiency can impact how well you think, react, work, learn and get along with others, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute notes. We all know the feeling of being sleep deprived and how it may seem like your brain isn’t working properly.
In addition to assisting your brain, getting a good night’s rest is also important to the health of the immune system.
The American Psychological Association says that for years, psychologists and psychiatrists have argued that chronic sleep deprivation is one of the most overlooked sleep problems in the U.S. Research has shown that getting too little sleep impairs memory and concentration and disrupts the body’s metabolism, the association notes.
Recommended amount of sleep
So how much sleep is really needed every night?
The National Sleep Foundation recently updated its guidelines on how much sleep is really needed at each age. Their guidelines includes minimum and maximum ranges for health and a recommended amount of sleep.
The recommendation for adults aged 26-64 is seven to nine hours of sleep a night. But as little as six hours a night or as much as 10 hours may be appropriate.
In these guidelines, the foundation added a new category for older adults, those 65 or older, and found that the recommended sleep range is seven to eight hours.
The foundation recommends people pay attention to their own individual needs to see how productive they feel on different amounts of sleep. Ask yourself if you depend on caffeine to get through the day and if you can be productive, healthy and happy on seven hours of sleep!
A 2013 poll found that more than half of Americans said they sleep less than seven hours on work nights. About 20 percent say they get less than six hours a night during the work week.
Tips for better sleep
There are several things you can do when you want better sleep. In order to maintain good sleep hygiene – or healthy sleeping habits – the National Sleep Foundation has several tips:
- Make sleep a pattern: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day of the week. Avoiding naps in the afternoon can also help you fall asleep at bedtime.
- Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual: Spend an hour before doing a bed doing a calming activity such as reading. Avoid electronics before bed if you find they make it hard to sleep.
- Exercise daily: Light exercise is better than no exercise, but vigorous exercise is best.
- Avoid heavy meals in the evening: Try to finish eating two or three hours before bedtime. Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can also negatively impact sleep.
- Pay attention to your environment: The foundation says your room should be between 60 and 67 degrees, and free from any noises or light. Comfortable mattress and pillows are also important. A mattress’ life expectancy is about a decade.
Challenges to good sleep
Trouble sleeping could be more than the busyness of life getting in the way.
The foundation recommends that if you or a loved one is experiencing daytime sleepiness, prolong insomnia or another symptom preventing you from sleeping well, consult your primary care doctor or a sleep professional.