We’ve all been there. You wake up cranky and your eyes are less than bright and beautiful. That sense of dread arrives next, as you wonder how you’ll get through your morning meeting without nodding off. It’s official: You didn’t get enough sleep and you are going to pay for it.
In a society where we are increasingly pushed to do more with less, one of the common sacrifices we make to achieve this is our nightly slumber. Most people need between seven and eight hours of sleep, though the range — depending on the person — varies from six to 10 hours. Children and young adults need the most sleep.
Because there is no universal number of sleep hours that we need, monitor your own internal clock. Ask yourself if you are able to focus well, or are getting drowsy during the day. And look in the mirror: red, puffy eyes, dark circles and the appearance of more wrinkles than you remember could be a sign that you’ve been short-changing yourself.
The most common cause of sleep deprivation, says Dr. Sharma, is from inadequate sleep due to poor sleep habits and from not making sleep a priority. Obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that disrupts breathing, is also a frequent culprit. Dr. Sharma says optimizing sleep is just as important as watching diet and exercise, and can similarly lead to health problems if ignored.
“Sleep deprivation can lead to obesity by slowing down our metabolism,” says Dr. Sharma, adding that we tend to make poor food choices and exercise less when we’re sleepy. It’s the perfect storm for slipping off of the health wagon.
Along with obesity, Dr. Sharma says the most common serious results of ongoing sleep deprivation are car accidents and stroke. So, with the potential for consequences as dangerous as these, how do we allow for more quality sleep?
4 tips for better sleep
- Commit to a consistent bedtime schedule
- Avoid intense workouts a few hours before bedtime
- Avoid caffeine six hours prior to bedtime
- Avoid alcohol close to bedtime
And one last tip for the electronic age: screen reading (on computers, tablets and smartphones) close to bedtime stimulates your brain, suppressing the normal rise in melatonin, which is the hormone responsible for regulating sleep. This means you’re revving up your brain when you should be cooling it down. Remember to keep your bed as a place for sleeping, and sweet dreams.
For the news media: To talk with Dr. Sharma about sleep and health for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.