Sleep is essential for good health
Sleep is an important part of your overall health and quality of life. How
well you sleep affects how well you feel when you’re awake. Both the length and
quality of your sleep are important. Most people spend nearly a third of their
lives sleeping, which is necessary for good productivity and health.
Too little or too much sleep can cause health problems and lower your
quality of life. Furthermore, some chronic diseases that cause altered sleep
patterns may get worse from lack of sleep and result in a shortened life
What are the benefits of sleep?
Sleep is important. When you’re asleep, your body replenishes and repairs
itself. It needs this time to repair muscles, consolidate memories, and release
hormones that maintain growth and digestion. Good-quality sleep helps control your
appetite, support your immune system, and promote good overall health.
Many adults are chronically sleep-deprived from going to bed too late or
waking up too early. Getting too little high-quality sleep can leave you
feeling fatigued, unable to concentrate, and mentally foggy. It can also raise
your risk of accidental injury and certain health conditions.
The amount of sleep you need depends on your age. Children and teens generally
need more sleep than adults. For most adults, the National
Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends getting seven to eight hours of
sleep per night. Getting too little or too much (typically defined as more than
10 hours per night on most nights) can be problematic.
Stages of sleep
Your sleep cycle can be broken into two main types of sleep: nonrapid eye
movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) stages.
According to the National
Sleep Foundation, NREM stages should typically make up 75 percent of your sleep
time. There are four NREM stages:
1 occurs when you’ve just gone to bed. You’re in transition between wakefulness
2 occurs when you fall asleep and become unaware of your surroundings. Your
body temperature drops and your breathing and heart rate fall into a natural
3 and 4 occur during what is called “deep sleep,” when your breathing slows,
blood pressure decreases, and muscles become completely relaxed. During these
restorative stages of sleep, blood flow to your muscles increases, growth
hormones are released, and tissues can repair themselves.
REM stages typically takes up the other 25 percent of your sleep time. A REM
stage typically occurs about 90 minutes after you fall asleep — and
approximately every 90 minutes after that. During these stages of sleep, your eyes
move around, your brain is active, and your body is relaxed. This is when
dreams occur. This type of sleep energizes your body and brain and helps you
feel alert and focused during the day.
Some people have sleep disorders that make it difficult to get good-quality
sleep. Sleep disorders include insomnia, sleep apnea, circadian rhythm
disorders, and parasomnias.
Insomnia is a common condition. It’s characterized by difficulty falling
asleep or staying asleep.
You may experience insomnia for several reasons. Common reasons include
stress, anxiety, inconsistent sleep schedules, and overall poor “sleep hygiene”
(discussed below). Moreover, insomnia may also be an underlying component of
depression or generalized anxiety, which often requires treatment.
Obstructive sleep apnea, often referred to as sleep apnea, occurs when your airways
briefly collapse, which interrupts (or obstructs) your breathing. This can potentially
happen multiple times a night. It can wake you up suddenly and cause stress,
resulting in poor sleep, although some people are not aware that they are
waking up during the night. Symptoms may include fatigue, headaches, and
snoring. Sleep apnea can cause long-term health problems.
Circadian rhythm disorders
Circadian rhythm disorders occur when your sleep schedule becomes irregular.
The most common type of circadian rhythm sleep disorder is called “shift work
disorder.” People who work during the night are at risk of this condition. It
occurs when you feel tired at night while you’re working, but you have difficulty
sleeping during the day when you’re not working. Jet lag can also disrupt your
Parasomnias include sleepwalking, talking during sleep, grinding your teeth
during sleep, nightmares, and wetting the bed. These behaviors can influence
the stages of your sleep and result in poor quality rest.
Tips for sleeping well
Sleeping well is necessary for good health. But for many people, it’s hard
to do. Try these simple strategies to enjoy better quality sleep.
Get treatment for sleep disorders
If you suspect you have insomnia, sleep apnea, or another sleep disorder,
talk to your doctor. Many sleep disorders can be managed through lifestyle
changes or other treatments.
For example, your doctor may advise you to change your sleep environment or
habits, practice meditation or other relaxation strategies, or take
prescription medications. They may also suggest you undergo a sleep study,
known as a polysomnogram, to further evaluate the cause of your sleep
disturbance. Sleep apnea can be treated with a continuous positive airway
pressure (CPAP) machine. This is a ventilator that helps keep your airways open
while you sleep.
Practice healthy sleep hygiene
Healthy sleep habits can help you fall asleep, stay asleep, or enjoy better
For example, a consistent sleep schedule is important. Try to go to bed and
wake up at the same times each day, even on weekends and holidays.
Making your bedroom more sleep-appropriate and comfortable can also help.
Take steps to keep it dark, cool, and quiet. Consider limiting indoor sources
of light, buying dark curtains, and using earplugs. Update your mattress,
pillows, and bedding as needed. Limit use of screens (TV, phone, tablet, or
computer) 30 minutes before sleep.
Developing a presleep routine can also help prepare your body and mind for
sleep. This routine should include relaxing activities, such as taking a warm
bath, drinking herbal tea, reading a calming book, listening to calming music,
writing in a journal, practicing restorative yoga, or meditating. Avoid loud
noises, bright lights, glowing computer screens, and other stimulating things
Since stress often causes sleep deprivation, efforts to reduce stress are
also important. For example, consider simplifying your lifestyle, setting
priorities, delegating tasks, and taking regular breaks. Prioritize self-care
by eating a well-balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and making time for
activities you enjoy.
It may also help to:
- Avoid caffeine, especially late in the day.
- Avoid alcohol, which can disrupt sleep stages.
- Don’t drink too much fluid at night to lessen your need
for bathroom trips.
- Avoid exercise late in the day.
- Avoid daytime naps or limit them to 30 minutes or less.
these lifestyle changes don’t help you get the sleep you need, talk to your
doctor. You may have an underlying health condition that’s keeping you awake at
night. Your doctor can recommend next steps and strategies to improve your