The Importance of Sleep for Overall Health

One out of three Americans get less than 7 hours of sleep a night, which can have a huge impact on overall health.

We could all use more sleep. The Centers for Disease Control recommends adults sleep at least seven hours per night; however, the CDC recently reported that many Americans aren’t getting enough sleep. In fact, over the last five decades, the average American has lost an hour and a half of sleep each weeknight, going to bed later but still waking up at relatively the same time.

When you don’t get enough sleep, or poor quality sleep, it has an immediate impact on your mood and alertness, but did you know sleep is also a vital component of overall health?

Sleep and Overall Health

Sleep influences all of the body’s major physiologic systems, including thermoregulatory, musculoskeletal, endocrine, respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and immune systems, as well as weight. Therefore, sleep and health are closely related— when you’re not at your healthiest your sleep quality suffers, and when your sleep quality suffers it can have negative health consequences. 67% of people with less than good sleep quality also report “poor” or “only fair” health.

Extended periods of too little sleep can impact professional and social performance as well as increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress. Mood problems, anxiety and depression, and increased risk of accidents can also be exacerbated by lack of sleep. However, these are all effects of short and long-term sleep debt, which can be made up over time by altering sleep patterns and habits— consistently getting more sleep and higher quality sleep each night.

Why don’t we get enough sleep?

In recent years, research has shown that the blue light from electronic devices such as phones, tablets, and televisions can have a negative impact on our sleep. Like sunlight, blue light affects circadian rhythm by halting melatonin production; this disruption leads to less sleep and poorer quality sleep. Easy access to technology also leads to longer workdays and increased alertness while playing games or reading the news at night.

Stress and sleeping disorders are also common sleep detriments. Rather than relaxing or unwinding before bed, many Americans focus on activities which heighten their stress levels, such as responding to emails. High stress levels can lead to insomnia and other undiagnosed sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, which not only impact duration and quality of sleep, but can generate serious health risks.

Sleeping Tips

  1. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day— consistency is key.
  2. Physical activity has been proven to improve sleep quality, duration, and reduce the risk of developing certain sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome.
  3. Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime.
  4. Turn off blue light technology 90 minutes before bed.
  5. Talk to your doctor about your sleeping patterns and any issues such as snoring or chronic daytime fatigue.

Use Biostrap to accurately measure your sleep. When you better understand your sleep habits and the amount of quality sleep you get each night, you can begin to alter your habits and improve your sleep and overall health.

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