Healthy Sleep - An Introduction



Think of everything you do during your day. Try to guess which     

activity is so important you should devote one-third of your time to  

doing it. Probably the first things that come to mind are working,  

spending time with your family, or pursuing leisure activities. But  

there’s something else you should be doing about one-third of your  



Many people view sleep as merely a “down time” when their brain  

shuts off and their body rests. In a rush to meet work, school,  

family, or household responsibilities, people cut back on their sleep,  

thinking it won’t be a problem, because all of these other activities  

seem much more important. But research reveals that a number of  

vital tasks carried out during sleep help to maintain good health and  

enable people to function at their best.  


While you sleep, your brain is hard at work forming the pathways  

necessary for learning and creating memories and new insights.  

Without enough sleep, you can’t focus and pay attention or respond  

quickly. A lack of sleep may even cause mood problems. In addition,  

growing evidence shows that a chronic lack of sleep increases  

the risk for developing obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and  



Despite the mounting support for the notion that adequate sleep,  

like adequate nutrition and physical activity, is vital to our wellbeing,  

people are sleeping less. The nonstop “24/7” nature of the  

world today encourages longer or nighttime work hours and offers  

continual access to entertainment and other activities. To keep up,  

people cut back on sleep. 


A common myth is that people can learn  to get by on little sleep (such as less than 6 hours a night) with no  adverse consequences. Research suggests, however, that adults need  at least 7–8 hours of sleep each night to be well rested. Indeed, in  

1910, most people slept 9 hours a night.  


But recent surveys show  the average adult now sleeps less than 7 hours a night, and more  than one-third of adults report daytime sleepiness so severe that it 

interferes with work and social functioning at least a few days each  

month. As many as 70 million Americans may be affected by chronic  

sleep loss or sleep disorders, at an annual cost of $16 billion in  

health care expenses and $50 billion in lost productivity.  


What happens when you don’t get enough sleep? Can you make up  

for lost sleep during the week by sleeping more on the weekends?  

How does sleep change as you become older? Is snoring a problem?  

How can you tell if you have a sleep disorder? Read on to find the  

answers to these questions and to better understand what sleep is  

and why it is so necessary. Learn about common sleep myths and  

practical tips for getting adequate sleep, coping with jet lag and  

nighttime shift work, and avoiding dangerous drowsy driving.  


Many common sleep disorders go unrecognized and thus are not  

treated. This booklet also gives the latest information on sleep  

disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome narcolepsy, and parasomnias.  


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