Are you catching enough zzzz’s?

When you’re busy trying to meet the demands of work, kids, school and/or family, cutting back on sleep may seem like the only answer. Sacrificing an hour or two of sleep to get more done can seem like a reasonable compromise, but the truth is even minimal sleep loss affects your physical and mental wellbeing.


A good night’s sleep can’t be substituted by coffee or energy drinks. Sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle for all ages, young and old. Getting enough zzz’s helps boost your immune system, benefits heart health and much more. Sleep supports healthy growth and development in infants, children and teens, too. And, it is important for mental health and better memory.


Most of us know that getting a good night’s sleep is important, but  too few of us actually make those eight or so hours of sleep a priority. One way is to create a nighttime routine. Activities like reading, journaling, taking a bath or listening to smooth, melodic music can help unwind your mind and relax you for sleep. Also, avoiding caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and other stimulants a few hours before bedtime can also help in getting a restful night of sleep.

The surprising health benefits of sleep…

  • Stronger immunity
  • Better weight control
  • Lower risk of injury
  • Reduced chronic pain
  • Better memory
  • Improved mood
  • Clearer thinking
  • Less stress and anxiety
  • Reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes

Unsure about the number of hours of sleep you need? Below are recommended hours of sleep by age group, according to the National Sleep Foundation.


Newborns (0-3 months)Infants (4-11 months)Toddlers (1-2 years)Preschoolers (3-5)School age children (6-13)Teenagers (14-17)Adults (18-65+)    14 – 17 hours12 – 15 hours11 – 14 hours10 – 13 hours9 – 11 hours8 – 10 hours7 – 9 hours


The quantity of sleep you get is important, but the quality of those hours is also vital. To help you get more restful sleep, avoid staring at screens, phones, tablets, computers and the like about 20 minutes before bedtime. The light from the screens suppresses the hormone that controls your sleep cycle, melatonin, and makes it harder to fall and stay asleep. And, try keeping your electronic devices away out of your bedroom too.


For some, quality of sleep can be affected by conditions like sleep apnea, which occurs when a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep. People who have sleep apnea stop breathing for 10 to 30 seconds at a time while they are sleeping. Often, a partner will complain of loud snoring, which may be an indicator of this condition. Other telltale signs that you might be suffering from sleep apnea include feeling drowsy during the day, restless during sleep, waking up with headaches and regularly experiencing a dry mouth and sore throat in the morning


Some risk factors like smoking and carrying extra weight can add to your risk of developing sleep apnea. About half of the people who have sleep apnea are at least moderately overweight. Losing just 10 percent of body weight can have a big effect on reducing sleep apnea symptoms. In some cases, losing a significant amount of weight can even cure the condition. Other risk factors include being over the age of 40, having small airways in the nose, throat or mouth and/or a large neck, tongue or tonsils.


Talk with your primary care physician about the quality of your sleep and if you think you or your partner may be suffering from sleep apnea. Board-certified sleep physicians at Mercy’s Sleep Center can diagnose and treat sleep apnea, in addition to treating other sleeping disorders locally.


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