With the push to get individuals to become more active and follow a well-balanced diet, the role that sleep plays in attaining better health seems to have gotten buried under the covers. The results of the 2009 Sleep in America Poll
, a telephone survey of 1,000 adults conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, found that the number of Americans who get less than 6 hours of sleep per night has increased from 13% to 20% since 2001, while those Americans getting more than 8 hours of sleep per night decreased from 38% to 28%. Furthermore, a 13% increase in the number of adults reporting sleep problems was noted.
An adequate amount of sleep is essential for your optimal well-being, as is quality sleep. Getting the proper quantity and quality of sleep, about 8-8.5 hours of uninterrupted, deep sleep per night for the average healthy adult, is associated with improved learning, memory, concentration, productivity, and enhanced mood states. Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with weight gain, a greater likelihood for getting into a car accident (from falling asleep at the wheel), and an increased risk for developing diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, depression, and other illnesses.
Sleep and Body Weight
Because obesity (and the diseases to which it contributes) is a great health concern, it is important for you to understand the impact sleep has on body weight. Individuals who get around 5-6 hours or less of sleep per night are more likely to become overweight and obese. A lack of sleep can influence your dietary choices. The results of the 2009 Sleep in America Poll revealed that 22% of those surveyed who did not get adequate sleep reported that they were less likely to eat healthy. Other studies have found that a lack of sleep is associated with a greater preference for foods that are higher in calories and sugar content. Consuming these foods in excess can lead to weight gain.
Adequate sleep helps to regulate your appetite. While you sleep, your body's levels of leptin, an appetite suppressor, are increased. Conversely, your body's levels of grehlin, an appetite stimulant, are decreased during sleep. A lack of sleep can interfere with the balance of these hormones.
Sleep deprivation can decrease your energy levels, interfering with your motivation to exercise. According to the 2009 Sleep in America Poll, of those individuals who did not get sufficient sleep, 30% stated they were too tired to exercise compared to 10% of those polled who got adequate sleep.
Tips to a Better Night's Sleep
- Stick to regular wake and bedtimes, even on weekends.
- Establish a bedtime ritual to signal to your body that it is time to relax and go to sleep.
- Exercise - regular exercise improves sleep. However, avoid exercising right before bedtime because it can reenergize you, making it difficult to fall asleep. It also increases your body temperature which can interfere with sleep quality. For optimal sleep, the best time to exercise is late afternoon.
- Avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol which can make it harder for you to fall asleep as well as hinder the quality of your sleep.
- Stop eating and drinking about 2-3 hours before your bedtime. A full stomach and heartburn can make lying down uncomfortable and interfere with the quality of your sleep.
- Create a sleep-friendly environment. The room should be dark, quiet, cool, and free of allergens.
- Choose a comfortable mattress, pillow, and bedding.
- Consider using sleep aid devices such as ear plugs, eye shades, "white noise", and blackout curtains.
If, after trying the above tips, you are still having difficulty falling and/or staying asleep, make an appointment with your physician to discuss the problem. Many disorders, such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, can be the cause. Documenting your troubles and symptoms in a "sleep diary" that you can then share with your physician will help him/her determine the cause and proper course of treatment.
Labels: 2009 Sleep in America Poll, National Sleep Foundation, sleep aids, sleep deprivation, sleep disorders, sleep problems