Like eating and drinking, sleep is a fundamental need humans can’t live without. Yet, 1 in 3 adults in the United States reports not getting enough daily sleep, and 50 million-70 million Americans have chronic sleep disorders.
These numbers represent a problem not just because people are going through the day tired, but because a lack of sleep is detrimental to overall health.
Here at Arlington Family Practice in Arlington, Massachusetts, we often see how not getting enough sleep affects our patients. We want you to benefit from good, regular sleep. Here’s why.
The benefits of sleep
Good sleep is the foundation of good health. Sleep gives your brain and body a chance to recover each day. With good sleep, you’re more alert, you think more clearly, and you make better decisions. You’re likely to be in a better mood and get along better with others.
Getting sufficient sleep also reduces your likelihood of getting sick, gaining weight, or developing a serious disease. Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep every night to function well.
Effects of not getting enough sleep
What happens if you don’t get enough sleep? Your health takes a hit. Sleep deficiencies have been linked to multiple chronic health problems, including:
Your blood pressure drops when you sleep, so a lack of sleep can lead to higher overall blood pressure and inflammation, two risk factors for heart disease.
A lack of sleep affects how your body reacts to insulin, which can cause your blood sugar levels to rise. Higher blood sugar levels put you at higher risk for developing diabetes.
Your body produces and regulates hormones while you sleep. If your sleep is disrupted, the lack of hormonal regulation means you’re more likely to overeat and consume foods higher in sugar and fat.
Immune system issues
Not getting enough sleep affects how successfully your immune system fights off infections and viruses. You might spend more time dealing with illnesses.
Mental health issues
Insufficient sleep can lead to depression and anxiety, which themselves can cause sleep issues — a vicious cycle.
Why you don’t get proper sleep
In today’s society, our schedules are so busy — including evening activities — that we don’t make time to sleep. Our cellphones disrupt us throughout the night, and poor bedroom environments make sleep difficult as well.
You may also have a sleep disorder that prevents you from getting adequate sleep, such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or insomnia.
How to get better sleep
If you think you have a sleep disorder, talk to your doctor. We can diagnose you or refer you to a sleep specialist. Most sleep disorders can be treated so you get the rest you need.
It’s also important to develop good sleep hygiene habits. Set a consistent sleep schedule so you go to bed and get up at the same times every day, even on the weekends. Limit naps to morning and early afternoon for 20 minutes or less.
Create a relaxing bedroom environment where you can sleep well. Block light with curtains, use a sound machine or fan to drown out noise, and lower the thermostat to a cool temperature. You should also avoid:
- Looking at screens for about an hour before bedtime
- Exercising in the evening
- Consuming caffeine anytime later than the afternoon
If you need help building good sleep habits or are concerned about your overall health, the team of providers at Arlington Family Practice is ready to help. Call our office today or request your appointment online.