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The Importance of Sleep

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  • Written By: Dr. Kirk Bonner
The Importance of Sleep
Sleep, we all wish we had more of it. Good sleep isn't just resting or taking a break from busy routines, it is a key part of living a healthy lifestyle.
Touro's Primary Care physician, Dr. Kirk Bonner discusses the importance of sleep and the impacts it has on our health when we don't get enough of it.

Why is sleep so important?

Sleep is not just resting or taking a break from busy routines. Sleep is a key part of good health. Getting enough sleep may help the body recover from illness and injury.

During sleep, your body releases hormones. Some of them keep your heart and blood vessels health. Lack of sleep deprives you of these hormones that is linked to health problems such as:

  • Chronic headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease

Also, sleep has an affect on our mental health especially when we are deprived of it. According to the CDC, sleep disturbance has long been an important symptom of depression. 

Benefits of getting sleep

  • Can help boost your immune system
  • Help prevent weight gain
  • Can increase productivity
  • Strengthen your heart
  • Better sleep can put you in a better mood
  • Can increase exercise performance
  • Improves memory

How much sleep do we need?

For adults, The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night for adults between 18 and 64 years old. Adults over 65 may need 7-8 hours.

Whereas children, need even more sleep than adults. School-aged children about 9 to 12 hours each night and toddlers, babies, and newborns obviously need more sleep than older children.

However, the number of hours alone isn’t enough. It’s about the quality sleep you are getting. If you get good quality sleep, you feel more rested when you wake up.

Let's talk naps! Is it beneficial to take a nap during the day?

Naps are good for both children and adults. While healthy adults don’t need to nap, many find napping provides positive benefits such as improving their mood and energy levels. Many studies show that naps also reduce daytime sleepiness, as well as boost learning and performance.

Research says a 20-minute nap is best at length. A shorter nap allows your body to rest without entering the deeper stages of sleep. Longer naps around 45 minutes or so can be problematic because you will likely wake up during the deepest sleep which can leave you with that groggy feeling when you wake up.

How can we improve our sleep?

  • Stick to a regular bedtime. Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends. Your body will get used to the routine.
  • Take a warm bath. When you get out of the tub, the drop in body temperature may help you feel tired. It can also help you relax and slow down, so you’re more ready to go to bed.
  • Take time to calm down before you turn out the lights. Turn off your electronic devices and TV an hour before bed. You can read a book, listen to music -- whatever helps you unwind.
  • Make the bedroom a sleep zone. If you're still awake 20 minutes after you hit the sack, get up. Get back in bed only when you feel tired enough. Train yourself to think of the bed as a place for sleeping only.
  • Avoid afternoon naps. If you sleep during the day, you're more likely to stay awake at night.
  • Don't drink alcohol close to bedtime. Even small amounts can make it harder to stay asleep. It can make you wake up in the middle of the night when the effects of the booze have worn off.
  • Drink less fluids at night. Trips to the bathroom break up your sleep.
  • Wear yourself out. Exercise at regular times each day, but not within 3 hours of your bedtime.
  • Get some sun. Try to get outside in the sunlight each day. It'll let your body know when it’s time to be awake, and when it’s not. But do wear sunscreen.

When to see a doctor

Start by asking yourself the following questions:
  1. Do I have trouble getting to sleep and/or staying asleep?
  2. Do I feel tired or exhausted during the day, even after going to bed at a decent time and feeling like I slept through the night?
If you answered yes to one or both questions, consider scheduling an appointment with your healthcare provider sooner rather than later to discuss your concerns. Diagnosis and treatment are the first steps to getting the healthy sleep that your body needs.

doctor kirk bonner
Dr. Bonner specializes in Family Medicine at Touro. He attended Tulane University Medical School and completed his residency at Ochsner Clinic Foundation.