We know spring is definitely here when we “spring forward” and move the clocks an hour ahead. But the benefits of longer days and more daylight hours comes with some drawbacks too: losing sleep. You may just think “it’s only an hour” and that it doesn’t have any real effect on your sleeping schedule or your productivity, but studies show that losing that one hour of sleep can have huge consequences. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), getting a proper amount of sleep is vital to your health. Despite that, about 60% of American adults have trouble falling asleep, or don’t get enough sleep a few nights a week, according to the NSF’s sleep survey.
Think it’s not a problem? Here’s the bad news: not getting enough sleep can significantly affect your daytime productivity—and this means your daytime sleepiness will impede your workload, and prevent you from concentrating on your normal daily activities—that’s the case for 40% of American adults. In fact, it’s such a serious issue that March 15, 2013 has been dedicated “World Sleep Day,” an annual event devoted to raising awareness about the importance of a full night’s rest. This year’s theme is “Good Sleep, Healthy Aging,” which focuses on the sleep problems that many seniors face.
Doctors recommend that adults get a minimum of seven to eight hours of sleep a night. And those hours become even more important as you age: seniors need the same amount, but, the problem is that, as you age, it gets harder and harder to sleep for six to eight hours at once (that might explain why you wake up at the crack of dawn, but find yourself dozing off in the afternoon).
So why is sleep so important, after all? Not getting enough sleep has been linked to a host of health problems, including:
• Accidents, including everyday injuries and falls
• Higher risk of cardiovascular diseases
• Mental health issues like anxiety and depression
• Weakened immune system
• Negative impact on memory recall and attention span
Here’s just one example: a study from the New England Journal of Medicine found that there were more fatal car accidents on the day following Daylight Savings Time when we spring forward and lose an hour of sleep, and fewer accidents on the day following Daylight Savings Time in the fall, when we gain an hour of sleep.
According to the World Association of Sleep Medicine, getting older doesn’t have to mean sacrificing sleep. Instead, you just need to adjust your body’s sleep patterns: since you will mostly likely be waking up earlier, compensate that time by going to sleep earlier, too. Breathing problems and other medical illnesses can interfere with a good night’s sleep. Start treating those problems and you’ll be able to sleep better. Figure out what works best for you—you can adjust your room temperature and lighting, two other contributors to sleep difficulties. Finally, try some herbal remedies like lemon balm and lavender if you’re having trouble sleeping. They’ve been known to improve sleep.
Source(s) for Today’s Article:
“Why Sleep is Important and What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough,” American Psychological Association February 2005; http://www.apa.org/topics/sleep/why.aspx?item=1, last accessed March 11, 2013.
“World Sleep Day,” World Association of Sleep Medicine. March 5, 2013; http://www.worldsleepday.org/march-press-release, last accessed March 11, 2013.