Do you get enough sleep? According to experts, adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each day. In addition to giving your body an opportunity for rest and recovery, scientists believe that sleep is the time when the brain sorts and stores information, replaces chemicals and solves problems. During deep sleep, the parts of the brain that control emotions, decision-making processes, and social interactions drastically reduce activity, suggesting that this type of sleep helps people maintain optimal emotional and social functioning while they are awake.

If you consistently do not get enough sleep, it may lead to problems functioning in daily life. These may include tiredness; concentration problems; decreased work performance; increased risk for falls, accidents and injuries; and health problems. The amount of sleep you need increases if you have been deprived of sleep. Getting too little sleep creates a "sleep debt," which eventually your body will demand be repaid. A person does not seem to adapt to getting less sleep than needed. Although you may get used to a sleep-depriving schedule, your judgment, reaction time and other functions are still impaired.

Sleep also impacts your physical performance.

"Sleep deprivation impacts us physically, which can negatively affect our coordination, agility, mood and energy," according to Dr. Bert Jacobson, head of the School of Educational Studies at Oklahoma State University. "Research shows that sleeping better and longer leads to improvements in athletic performance, including faster sprint time, better endurance, lower heart rate and even improved mood and higher levels of energy during a workout."

Sleep will get interrupted from time to time and having occasional difficulty getting enough sleep is common. This usually occurs during times of change, stress and excitement. Some individuals may not practice good "sleep hygiene," or what are considered good sleep habits. There are a few things that can be done to help you sleep better. Good sleep hygiene includes the following:

• Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day. If possible, wake up with the sun, or use very bright lights in the morning.
• Avoid caffeine six hours before bedtime.
• Avoid alcohol two hours before bedtime.
• Go to bed when sleepy. If you are unable to fall asleep after 15 minutes or wake up and can't go back to sleep, get up and do something relaxing until you are sleepy and then return to bed.
• Avoid eating a late dinner. A full stomach for most people also means a level of discomfort that keeps them awake.
• Exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day to boost your metabolism and help relieve sleep-robbing stress. However try to exercise five to six hours before going to bed.
• Spend a few minutes just before going to bed doing something that helps you relax and unwind, for example, taking a warm bath or reading.
• Maintain a comfortable temperature in the bedroom. Extreme temperatures may disrupt sleep or prevent you from falling asleep.

For additional information on sleep, visit:

National Sleep Foundation, http://www.sleepfoundation.org

American Sleep Association, http://www.sleepassociation.org

Page last updated Mon October 1st, 2012 at 00:00