Is sleep your best medicine?

An Irish proverb says, “A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.” This Sleep Awareness Month, take the time to review your sleeping habits and see what you can do to help ensure a good night’s sleep.

Why is sleep so great for you?

Aside from feeling alert and ready to take on the day, having consistent, good-quality sleep can help you:

  • Improve concentration and mood
  • Lower risk for serious health problems
  • Maintain a healthy blood pressure level
  • Reduce stress levels
  • Stay at a healthy weight
  • Strengthen your immune system

How much sleep is enough?

While you’re sleeping, your body is at work, such as regulating hormones. For instance, cortisol is the stress hormone responsible for your flight or fight response to danger. Sleep deprivation can cause the body to react as if it’s in distress, prompting the release of more cortisol. Too much of this hormone over time may lead to health issues.

Research has shown that sleeping an extra 60 to 90 minutes per night can make a person healthier and happier. Here is the recommended amount of sleep per day based on age:

Age Group   Recommended No. of Hours of Sleep per Day
 Newborn (0-3 months old)  14-17 hours
 Infant (4-12 months old)  12-16 hours
 Toddler (1-2 years old)  11-14 hours
 Preschool (3-5 years old)  10-13 hours
 School age (6-12 years old)  9-12 hours
 Teen (13-18 years old)  8-10 hours
 Adult (18+ years old)  7-9 hours

How to get a better night’s sleep?

A lot of things can distract you from quality sleep. Just a few tips to create positive bedtime habits may help you catch a few more zzzzz’s, such as:

  1. Sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
  2. Do a relaxing activity before bedtime, such as a hot bath or reading.
  3. Avoid using electronics at bedtime because the blue light they emit disrupts the melatonin surge you need to fall asleep.
  4. Do not eat a large meal before going to bed.
  5. Avoid or limit tobacco, alcohol and caffeine, as they can disrupt normal sleep cycles.
  6. Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature and make sure it is dark and quiet.
  7. Exercise at least 20 to 30 minutes a day.

What happens when you don’t get enough sleep?

Sad to say that there is bad news when you sleep poorly. Lack of sleep quality or ongoing sleep deficit can impair your judgment, make you irritable, affect your concentration and weaken your physical coordination. Having insufficient sleep has also been linked to the development of these chronic conditions:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity

Better sleep quality can help reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases. Visit a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment if you have chronic sleep problems. Keep a record of your sleep habits for about ten days and bring it up during your medical consultation. Help is available for better sleep!

American Psychological Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
National Library of Medicine

Sign Up for Health Tips

Get our advice and upcoming events about weight, pain, heart and more.

Find a Doctor

Need a doctor for your care?