Thirty five percent of U.S. adults report sleeping less than the recommended minimum seven hours each night; 73 percent of teenagers say they get less than the recommended eight to 10 hours of sleep for their age, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).
Sunday, March 13 marked the beginning of Sleep Awareness Week as well as the start of daylight saving time.
Sleep is one of the pillars of a healthy lifestyle, along with a balanced diet and regular exercise.
Dr. Rana Mahmood, medical director of the HSHS St. Mary’s Sleep Medicine Center, says sleep is when the brain and body disconnect from the senses, no longer allowing us to process information from the outside. In turn, sleep allows us to review activities and experiences from the day which strengthens memory; gives our organs time to rest; allows our immune system to scan for infections and fight illnesses; and allows a child or teenager’s muscles to grow.
“Sleep also helps us think more clearly and creatively, and improves mood,” says Dr. Mahmood. “And it keeps us safe by helping to avoid drowsy driving and accidents at work.”
The term ‘sleep hygiene’ refers to a series of healthy sleep habits that can improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep:
- Limit the use of electronics one hour prior to bed to prepare bodies and brains for sleep.
- Do not go to bed hungry.
- Keep the bedroom temperature cooler than the rest of the house.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol four to six hours before bedtime.
- If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and do a quiet activity without a lot of light exposure until you feel sleepy.
Dr. Mahmood says it’s always best to stay in a routine when it comes to bedtime and wake time, especially with kids. “It’s difficult to get kids to bed sometimes, so allowing them to stay up a bit later every now and then is okay but try not to deviate more than one hour.”
Insufficient sleep can lead to health conditions such as irritability, obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression and diabetes.
There are more than 80 identified sleep disorders and sometimes the cause has nothing to do with actual lack of sleep, according to Dr. Mahmood. He says stress, depression, a change in family dynamics, a new career and other life adjustments can lead to trouble sleeping.
Accredited by the AASM, the St. Mary’s Sleep Medicine Center diagnoses a patient's potential sleep disorders and provides treatment options to help each patient achieve the rest needed to function at home and on the job. Both hospital-based and at-home sleep studies are available.
For more information about the St. Mary’s Hospital Sleep Medicine Center, visit here or call at 217-464-2847.
For additional information about getting quality sleep, visit the AASM sleep education webpage.