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It seems like every time I am asked to talk or write about a disease or healthcare challenge, when I look into disease management and maximizing health, good sleep is among the top recommendations.  Whether it’s an inflammatory disease, heart disease lung disease, diabetes, anxiety, depression, stress or chronic pain, adequate, restful restorative sleep improves health, supports a sense of wellbeing and contributes to better health outcomes.

But what are the effects if inadequate sleep?  Even if you don’t have a chronic disease or other health challenge, poor sleep can have a negative impact.  A recent post on the Cleveland Clinic’s website outlined some of these concerns.

  • Alertness – this is common sense but missing even 1 ½ hours of sleep decreases alertness and a number of brain functions like creativity, innovation and attention.
  • Memory – a lack of sleep decreases your ability to retain and to process information.
  • Relationships – not getting enough sleep can make you moody and impatient and that is not good for your interactions with others, at work and at home.
  • Quality of life – being tired makes you less likely to engage in enjoyable activities and you’re also less likely to exercise regularly.
  • Car accidents – drowsy driving leads to thousands of accidents, injuries and deaths every year.
  • Serious health complications – complications of long term sleep deprivation include heart failure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure.  This is serious business.

So how much sleep should you get each night?  Updated research indicates that for most people the following guidelines apply:

  • Older adults, 65+ years: 7-8 hours
  • Adults, 26-64 years: 7-9 hours
  • Young adults, 18-25 years: 7-9 hours
  • Teenagers, 14-17 years: 8-10 hours
  • School-age children, 6-13 years: 9-11 hours
  • Preschool children, 3-5 years: 10-13 hours
  • Toddlers, 1-2 years: 11-14 hours
  • Infants, 4-11 months: 12-15 hours
  • Newborns, 0-3 months: 14-17 hours

There are a number of behaviors that make it more difficult to sleep, like too much screen time during the day and evening, alcohol use, tobacco use, lack of regular exercise and unhealthy eating.  There are also a number of things that can be done to improve sleep time and quality like “sleep hygiene” (see past blogs or google it), healthy eating, regular exercise and cognitive behavioral therapy for sleep.

So get some Zs and live a healthier and happier life!

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Noah Nesin, MD

Dr. Nesin, Vice President of Medical Affairs for PCHC, is a family doctor with 30 years of experience.

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