Sleep and your health
Updated: Apr 30, 2019
Eating a healthy diet and being physically active are important for your health, but did you know that sleep is just as important? March is National Sleep Awareness Month, so we're sharing some information about the importance of healthy sleep. Sleep should be a top health priority. Getting sufficient sleep (7 or more hours) is one of the 5 key behaviors for reducing the risk of chronic disease, which also include quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, physical activity and avoiding drinking too much alcohol.
Sleep deprivation is such a big problem in the U.S. that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have referred to it as a public health epidemic. This January Washington Post article goes into more detail about the problem, and states that in 2016 the CDC reported that a third of adults fail to get the recommended amount of sleep. The below map shows that in Bartholomew County, 29.3-34.6 % of adults reported sleeping fewer than 7 hours per night, which was better than the state average, but is still pretty dismal. Even adults who do sleep the recommended number of hours may not be getting healthy sleep due to disorders like sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and others.
Sleep is important for more than just reducing your risk of disease. Getting sufficient sleep "promotes physical health and mental well-being. It also boosts performance and reduces safety risks." (sleep education.org). Health problems linked to insufficient sleep include weight gain and obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, depression, impaired immune system and increased risk of death. Sleep is also known to affect memory, learning and brain development. Sleep is particularly important for young people, who need even more sleep than adults.
We've all heard that exercise helps us sleep better. The National Sleep Foundation reports that "People sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day if they get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week". Recent studies have also shown that lack of sleep can result in low physical activity levels. However, the same studies also determined that increasing sleep does not result in an immediate increase in physical activity levels. This only means that you shouldn't expect to automatically become more active once you start sleeping more - and that it will take a concerted effort. However, the effort is worthwhile, due to the known health benefits of both sufficient sleep and physical activity.
It's important that we all put sleep back up on our list of health priorities. Brush up your healthy sleep basics. Talk to your kids about the importance of sleeping and help them get into healthy sleep routines. Check out the Healthy Sleep Awareness Campaign for some ideas, or click on the image below. Talk to your doctor about any sleep concerns, such as snoring or insomnia. Then get snoozing! It's good for your health.