Wisconsin, we need to wake up to the fact that we’re not getting enough sleep. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, more than 70 million Americans have a sleep disorder, and most are completely unaware that they could be getting better sleep.1 Inadequate sleep can cause impaired memory and thought processes, depression, increased perception of pain and decreased immune response.2
Sleep also seems to affect weight, as your body responds to a lack of sleep by craving more fuel, particularly foods high in fat and carbohydrates.3 A 2004 study showed that people who slept less than six hours per night were almost 30 percent more likely to become obese than those who slept more.3
While the necessary amount of sleep varies from person to person, most adults need seven to eight hours a day. However, some people may need as few as five or as many as ten, and pregnant women in their first trimester often need several more hours of sleep each day than they did before getting pregnant.4 If you feel drowsy during the day, even when you are bored, you haven’t had enough sleep. 4
Sleep and work
While many of us wear our sleep deprivation as a badge of honor, the lack of importance our society places on sleep is having serious effects. A study published in the January 2010 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that annual fatigue-related productivity costs came to about $1,967 per employee. Those who weren’t getting enough sleep were significantly less productive, performed worse and had more accidents on the job than workers who were getting adequate rest.5
Tips for getting good sleep6
- Talk to your doctor. Your sleep habits are so fundamental to your overall health that you should talk to your primary care physician regularly about your sleep.
- Keep a routine. Get up at the same time each morning, have meals at regular times and go through the same bedtime ritual (bath, snack, book, etc.) each night. This keeps your body clock accustomed to going to sleep when it is bedtime.
- Safeguard your bedroom as a place for sleep. Keep your bedroom quiet, cool and dark. Don’t read, eat, watch TV, write, talk on the phone or worry in bed. Once you get in bed, your mind should be off for the night.
- Be aware of what you put into your body and how it affects your sleep. Skip caffeine after lunch. Avoid alcohol (and heavy exercise) within six hours of your bedtime. Don’t smoke before bedtime, and keep any bedtime snacks light. Try to avoid relying on sleeping pills and talk to your doctor if you feel you need them, even over-the-counter versions.
For many, being more intentional about good sleep and using the above tips can make a big difference. But there are many among us that may need more help. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, there are many effective treatments your doctor or a sleep specialist can use to help you, including:7
- Bright light therapy. Spending even a short amount of time each day in front of very bright lights can help to reset your internal clock. The time of day and type of light therapy depends on the sleep problem you have.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Relaxation training and biofeedback, stimulus control, sleep restriction, cognitive control and psychotherapy are treatments typically used for insomnia. These therapies address the underlying cause of your sleep problem.
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, a common but dangerous condition in which the airway becomes partially blocked while sleeping, involves wearing a mask that blows air into the back of your throat while you sleep to keep the airway open.
- Oral appliances. Mouth guards like those worn for sports can protect your teeth if you grind them in your sleep. They can also help with snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.
- Medications or nutritional supplements. Medications are available to treat many sleep problems, and certain nutritional supplements may offer some benefit as well.
- Some sleep problems, such as obstructive sleep apnea, may require surgery.
Don’t take your sleep lying down
In addition to the above, check out the sleep evaluation tools available at sleepeducation.org. You can also download a sleep diary that will help you and your doctor identify what’s keeping you up at
The information provided is for educational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please consult your doctor for medical advice about changes that may affect your health and before taking any medications or beginning any lifestyle program.
1 American Academy of Sleep Medicine, Sleep Disorders (accessed April 1, 2010): sleepeducation.com
2 WebMD, Are You Getting Enough Sleep? (February 9, 2009): webmd.com
3 WebMD, 10 Things to Hate about Sleep Loss (February 17, 2010): webmd.com
4 WebMD, Are You Getting Enough Sleep? (February 9, 2009): webmd.com
5 Rosekind, M. R., Gregory, K. B., Mallis, M. M., Brandt, S. L., Seal, B., & Lerner, D. (2010). “The Cost of Poor Sleep: Workplace Productivity Loss and Associated Costs.” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 52(1), 91-98.
6 WebMD, Spring Forward with 10 Sleep Tips (March 1, 2010): webmd.com
7 American Academy of Sleep Medicine, Common Treatments (accessed April 2, 2010): sleepeducation.com