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Sleep and Your Health

By on July 3, 2019

by Tami Mungenast CPT CNWC

Summer brings more daylight and often less sleep. Sleep can be reduced, especially in the summer for parents, while kids are up later and schedules not as strict. It can be especially tempting in the summer to trade sleep for a few extra hours of activity. The National Institute of Health has numerous studies that show insufficient sleep increases a person risk of developing both physical and mental/emotional issues to include obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and depression.

Physical Health: While you sleep your body performs repairs especially to your heart and blood vessels.  According to the NIH, sleep deficiencies are linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke. Sleep also impacts the hormonal system which can increase your risk for obesity.  Studies show that teenagers who do not get enough sleep have higher odds of becoming obese. Proper sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of various hormones to include ghrelin and leptin.  These two hormones affect your appetite and let you know when you are full. If the balance is off you will feel hungrier. Sleep also impacts insulin levels. Insulin is the “fat storage hormone” and helps control your blood glucose level. Sleep deficiency results in higher blood sugar and can increase your risk for diabetes. Your immune system also relies on sleep to stay healthy. Ongoing sleep deficiencies can negatively impact the way in which your immune system responds. This can lead to difficulty in fighting infections.

Mental Health: Sleep has a big impact on brain function. Studies show that a solid night’s sleep improves many cognitive functions including learning and attention span.  It can also improve your ability to make decisions and creativity. Chronic sleep deficiency can create emotional problems, coping skill limitations, depression and in some cases suicide and risk taking behaviors. In particular, children who are deficient may experience problems getting along with others, feel angry, impulsive and have mood swings and lack motivation. It can also lead to attention span issues and affect their school work.

The amount of sleep you need varies over the course of your life and can vary person to person and by ages.  This table reflects the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommendations and is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics

Age Recommended Amount of Sleep
Infants 4-12 months 12-16 hours a day (including naps)
Children 1-2 years 11-14 hours a day (including naps)
Children 3-5 years 10-13 hours a day (including naps)
Children 6-12 years 9-12 hours a day
Teens 13-18 years 8-10 hours a day
Adults  18 years + 7–8 hours a day

If you struggle getting adequate sleep you can take steps to improve your sleep habits. Making time to sleep will help you protect your health and well-being now and in the future.

Tips to help improve your sleep habits:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. For children, have a set bedtime and a bedtime routine. Don’t use the child’s bedroom for timeouts or punishment.
  • Limit weekend and vacation differences to be no more than an hour. Staying up late and sleeping in late on weekends can disrupt your body clock’s sleep–wake rhythm.
  • Take some quiet time before bed.  Avoid exercise right before bed and using TV, Computer or mobile devices.  The light can send messages to the brain that it’s time to be awake.
  • Avoid heavy meals before bedtime.  Also avoid alcohol, nicotine and caffeine.
  • Get time outdoors every day and be physically active.
  • Keep your bedroom quiet, cool, and dark
  • Avoid napping for more than 20 minutes otherwise it can affect your ability to sleep at bedtime.

Evidence shows when people get the sleep they need they not only feel better but they also increase their odds of living a more productive and healthier life.  Improving your sleep habits can improve your overall health and well-being.