Getting Enough Sleep Key to Good Health

I’m guessing there’s a good chance you’ve felt tired today and if not today, then probably yesterday. Most people, it seems, are tired. And the reason for that is simple: we’re not getting enough sleep.

There are guidelines about how much sleep children need, but for adults it’s a little bit murkier with an average of eight hours. But how many people get eight solid hours of sleep? Probably not many, but sleep is important to our health. While we sleep, our body repairs itself. Studies also show that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to catch a virus than a well-rested person and it takes them longer to recover. Long-term, poor sleep habits increase your chances of getting diabetes, becoming obese, and developing cardiovascular problems.

How much do you need? Only you know. Some people may need 10 hours to feel at their prime while others feel and do great on just six. Think about times when you’ve felt well rested and how much sleep you got the night before. If necessary, keep a journal and write down how much sleep you got and how you felt the next day to see if a pattern emerges.

Here are some tips to help you get the rest you deserve:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day. When you try to “catch up” on the weekend by sleeping in longer, it can throw off your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
  • Turn off all electronic devices at least an hour before hitting the pillow. The blue light emitted by TVs, computers, and phones send “awake” messages to our body.
  • Watch the caffeine and alcohol. Both affect how you sleep – caffeine makes it harder to fall asleep while alcohol may make you sleepy at first, but then disrupt your sleep later on. In general, watch how much liquid you drink before bed to eliminate any middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom.
  • Develop a bedtime ritual. There’s a reason we do this with children because it works! Your ritual can be as simple as washing your face, brushing your teeth, and then reading.
  • Keep pets and children out of your bed since they disrupt the quality of your sleep.
  • Get regular exercise. Staying active can help you fall asleep faster and enjoy a higher quality of sleep.

If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep – and have made changes like cutting out alcohol and caffeine – please bring it up with your medical provider since there may an underlying health factor affecting the quality of your sleep, such as sleep apnea.

Many people say they are too busy to get to bed early, but just like you need to make time in your schedule for other healthy activities, such as exercise, you need to make time to get enough sleep. Your health depends on it.

Scott Schuldes is a certified family nurse practitioner and associate medical director at ThedaCare Physicians-Hilbert. He can be reached at