Sleep is very important. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, obtaining sufficient sleep (7 to 9 hours for adults, more for children and adolescents) may aid in preventing sickness, improving mood and decision-making, and lowering an individual's risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Between 50 to 70 million Americans are not getting sufficient sleep. Moreover, a 2002 study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that 37 percent of adults surveyed reported feeling so tired as to interfere with their daily lives.
Many factors can contribute to sleep insufficiency. While individuals may intentionally replace sleep with important obligations or entertaining activities, a significant number of individuals suffer from insomnia, which is the condition of being unable to fall asleep, stay asleep, or experiencing non-restorative sleep. Insomnia can be caused by numerous factors, including stress, pain, certain medications, disruptions in sleep schedule, caffeine and underlying diseases or conditions. According to the National Sleep Foundation, insomnia has been linked to "poorer overall health, more work absenteeism, and a higher incidence of depression."
In order to combat insomnia and help you get the quality of sleep you need, experts recommend you creating healthy sleep habits. Some ways to form these habits include:
- Setting a routine schedule for sleeping, with the same bedtime and same morning wake time everyday (weekends included)
- Regularly exercising at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime
- Avoiding caffeine (found in soda, coffee, tea, and chocolate) and alcohol after 3 p.m.
- Eating no later than 2 to 3 hours before bedtime
- Use the bed and bedroom for sleep or sexual activity only. Keep the TV and computer out of the bedroom and refrain from eating, talking or texting on the phone while in bed.
- Sleep in a comfortable, dark, relaxing and quiet environment.
If symptoms of insomnia continue for at least a month, speak with a doctor or sleep specialist. Visit www.sleeplessinbaltimore.com, www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-related-problems/insomnia-and-sleep and www.healthfinder.gov/prevention/ViewTopic.aspx?topicID=68&cnt=1&areaID=0 for more information.Every Monday, the Johns Hopkins Healthy Monday Project, part of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, offers tips for preventing disease and injury, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Check back each week for new tips or visit our archive.