True confession time: I’ll start. I haven’t been sleeping well lately. How about you? If you’re like most Americans you haven’t been getting the prescribed 7 to 9 hours nightly either. (ref: Centers for Disease Control) And, chances are if you are sleeping for 7 hours it may not be good quality. I know when I wake up, the sheets are all twisted and the pillows are often on the floor. (Although that might be from my dog’s wiggling around.) We need good quality sleep for our health and well-being. Back in the early days of the pandemic I wrote that sleep difficulties were common. Things haven’t changed a whole lot in the last couple of years.
What happens when you don’t get enough?
If we don’t get enough zzzz’s, we run the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Sleeping better and for a longer time can help in regulating blood sugar, which is an indicator of diabetes.
Not getting enough zzz’s has also been linked to obesity. This can have had its roots in childhood – it’s linked to brain development in children and insufficient sleep can adversely affect the hypothalamus which regulates appetite and the expenditure of energy. However, studies have revealed an association between short sleep and excess weight in all ages. So, we’re not exempt from this. If we’re overweight as adults, don’t use the old “I’m too tired to eat right and exercise” excuse!
It’s been suggested that insufficient duration and sleep disorders contribute to depression. The CDC reports that rest disturbance has been a notable symptom of depression, but it could be that other symptoms of depression decrease with better sleep.
No one is exempt
No one is exempt from the need for 7 to 9 hours. Jennifer Lopez related the story of the panic attack she had in the early days of her career brought on by lack of sleep. Now JLo makes sleep a priority. In fact, it’s an important part of her healthy aging routine.
How to sleep better
Here are some recommendations from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine on how to get enough, and better quality rest:
- Be like JLo and prioritize your sleep. Plan on a bedtime that will give you those 7 to 9 hours. Go to bed at the same time every day and wake up at the same time – even on the weekends.
- Make sure the environment is conducive to sleep. Your room should be comfortable, dark and a good temperature. Most people have better rest when it’s a little cool.
- If you can’t bear to take electronics out of the bedroom, turn them off a half hour before bed.
- Don’t eat large meals or drink alcohol just before bed.
- Exercise: physical activity during the day can help you sleep better.
Even though you may not have known all the implications, this is really nothing very new. Eat right, exercise, and get your 7 to 9 hours a night for healthy aging.