INDIANA – People often overlook an important factor that contributes to good health – sleep. Quality sleep – or lack of it – affects nearly every aspect of physical, mental, and emotional health. It helps lower the risk for certain diseases and conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, depression, and obesity.
Sleep is fundamental to how people think, learn, work and get along with others.
Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a night, and recommendations for children vary by age.
“Fatigue and the inability to sleep well are some of the most common concerns I hear from patients,” says Adam Maclauchlan, MD, a family medicine physician with IU Health Physicians in Avon. “It’s a topic I discuss a lot and it’s one that typically affects both males and females and people in all age ranges.”
How much sleep is enough?
The recommendation for most adults, Dr. Maclauchlan says, is seven to eight hours of solid sleep a night. School-aged children, depending on their age, may need up to 12 hours of sleep, and the recommended guideline for teenagers is between eight and 10 hours a night.
“One of the signs that you’re getting enough sleep is whether you feel rested when you awaken and throughout the day,” he says.
Signs that you may need more sleep include:
- Feeling tired several days a week
- Irritability or difficulty getting along with others
- Inability to make decisions or think clearly
Strategies for better sleep
Improving sleep requires consistent effort and commitment, but the benefits can have a positive impact on health and well-being. Here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you’re getting the rest you need:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same times every day. Developing a consistent sleep schedule—even on the weekends—will help your body get into a natural sleep/waking rhythm.
- Avoid caffeine in the late afternoon and evening. Limit caffeine intake to the morning if you have trouble falling asleep.
- Exercise regularly. Even 20-30 minutes of exercise a day can help improve your sleep. Schedule physical activity at least three to five hours before bedtime to prevent difficulty falling asleep.
- Avoid naps during the day. While they may make you feel more refreshed in the moment, naps disrupt your body’s normal sleep cycle.
- Sleep in a cool, dark room.
- Make sure your mattress and pillows are in good condition, especially if you’re prone to back pain. People with back pain are more likely to wake up during the night and may have trouble falling back to sleep.
- Turn off phones and other electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime. The blue light from screens inhibits the production of melatonin—the hormone that helps you fall asleep.
If fatigue persists and sleeplessness continues, Dr. Maclauchlan says talking to a primary care provider (PCP) can help. A PCP can advise whether additional steps are needed such as cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI).
“Specifically designed for people who have trouble sleeping, CBTI is a behavioral therapy that focuses on relaxation and stress management techniques to help you fall asleep and sleep more soundly,” he explains. “Depending on the situation, a primary care doctor may also recommend a sleep study by a qualified sleep medicine specialist or another form of treatment to help promote better sleep.”
Information Indiana University Health