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Overcome sleep deficits for optimal health

Overcome poor sleep with these tips and strategies

We all occasionally have those nights when we don’t get sufficient sleep and wake up feeling less than rested. Often, sleep deficits are due to stress, illness or environmental factors like light, noise or extreme temperatures that interfere with sleep. However, when a night of sleeplessness becomes a regular occurrence, it’s time to address the problem.

Defining a good night’s sleep

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the majority of adults require seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Yet, in a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) survey, more than one-third of adults reported less than seven hours of sleep during a typical 24-hour period. Other studies show this number to be much higher. In fact, some of the latest polls indicate that up to 75 percent of adults are not getting sufficient sleep. It’s no surprise that the CDC has declared insufficient sleep a public health epidemic.

Risks associated with sleep deprivation

Sleep deprivation is linked to a wide range of health consequences that can jeopardize safety, emotional and mental stability, as well as long-term well-being.

Mood and cognitive abilities are hindered by even a single night of poor quality sleep. You may feel cranky, sad or foggy. And, chronic sleep deprivation is linked to higher rates of anxiety and depression. Memory suffers, as does your ability to concentrate. This goes hand-in-hand with one of the most serious, sleep-related health risks – accidents. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that more than 1,550 deaths and 40,000 injuries each year in the United States are related to driver fatigue.

Although the cognitive and emotional effects of sleep deprivation are obvious, the metabolic and physiological impact builds over time, putting you at a higher risk for developing a range of chronic health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

“Sleep is essential. It’s not optional,” says Dr. Penny Stern, Director, Preventive Medicine, Northwell Health. “We all need to view sleep as a vital component of good health. It shouldn’t be considered slothful or wasting time.”

What you can do

The good news is that sleep deficits are highly treatable. Often, simple lifestyle changes can dramatically improve sleep quality. These include:

  • Cutting down or eliminating caffeine
  • Keeping the bedroom cool, quiet and dark
  • Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule
  • Avoiding daytime napping
  • Exercising on a regular basis
  • Sleeping on comfortable, quality bedding (natural fibers are best)
  • Turning off electronic devices and TV at least one hour before bedtime
  • Establishing a relaxing bedtime ritual that helps prepare you for sleep

If you are experiencing sleep difficulties, it’s important to speak with your doctor. In some cases, prescription medications or the timing of medications can impact sleep. A sleep evaluation may be recommended to determine the cause of the problem. Once a diagnosis is made, treatment may include cognitive behavioral therapy or the use of a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine if sleep apnea is a factor. While sleeping pills can be beneficial for providing relief for individuals struggling with temporary sleep issues, they can be risky when used over a prolonged period of time.

“Tell your doctor if you’re experiencing sleep difficulties,” says Dr. Stern. “Don’t struggle with it alone. Having a good night sleep can dramatically improve the quality of your life.”

Learn more about strategies and treatments for sleep disturbances. At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

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