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Sleep. Glorious sleep. We all need it. Some of us wish we had more time for it. Most of us don’t get enough of it. The National Sleep Foundation reports forty-five percent of Americans say that poor or insufficient sleep affected their daily activities at least once in the past seven days. If you are among them, here’s what you need to know about sleep.

Why is sleep so important?

Researchers are beginning to learn more about sleep and why we need it. What they’ve discovered is that sleep enables our bodies, especially our brains, to recover from the day.

The newest research from the University of Rochester Medical Center found that during the day excess protein builds up in our brains. Sleep allows our brain to clean up that protein. Here’s how it works. While we sleep the cells in our brain actually shrink by 60 percent. This contraction creates more space between the cells and allows our cerebral spinal fluid to wash more freely through our brain tissue to clean up or flush out protein buildup.

Getting enough sleep also allows our brain the opportunity to:

  • Reorganize data to help find a solution to a problem.
  • Process newly learned information.
  • Organize and archive memories.

More sleep benefits include:

  • Letting our muscles, bones and organs repair themselves.
  • Keeping our immune system healthy.
  • Keeping us safe from household, automobile or other accidents that can occur when we become sleep deprived.
  • Regulating our emotions and putting us in a better mood.
  • Helping us to better control our weight.

How much sleep do you need?

Three years ago, the National Sleep Foundation brought together sleep experts, as well as experts in anatomy and physiology, pediatrics, neurology, gerontology and gynecology to reach a consensus about the recommended amount of sleep we all need. Here is what these experts recommend:

  • Newborns (0–3 months) 14–17 hours
  • Infants (4–11 months) 12–15 hours
  • Toddlers (1–2 years) 11–14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3–5 years) 10–13 hours
  • School age children (6–13 years) 9–11 hours
  • Teenagers (14–17 years) 8–10 hours
  • Adults (18–64 years) 7–9 hours
  • Older adults (65+) 7–8 hours

7 tips to help you get more sleep

Our brain needs it. Our body needs it. And now we know how much of it experts say we should get each night. So, how do we turn off the work stress and family responsibilities and get the sleep we need?

  1. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. And try to keep the same sleep schedule on weeknights and weekends. Staying up late and sleeping in on weekends can disrupt your body clock.
  2. Use the hour before bed for quiet time. Avoid bright artificial light, such as from a TV or computer screen. The light may signal the brain that it’s time to be awake.
  3. Avoid large meals within a couple hours of bedtime. Also avoid alcoholic drinks, nicotine and caffeine. The effects of caffeine can last as long as 8 hours. So, a cup of coffee in the late afternoon can make it hard for you to fall asleep at night.
  4. Spend time outside every day and be physically active.
  5. Keep your bedroom quiet, cool and dark.
  6. Take a hot bath or use relaxation techniques before bed.
  7. Limit naps or take them earlier in the afternoon. Adults should nap no more than 20 minutes.

It’s not uncommon for anyone to have the occasional sleepless night. However, if you’re having troubling falling or staying asleep more often than not, it may be time to contact your doctor.

Take the worry out of getting the care you need:

Consider signing up for CarePlus—a free concierge healthcare service. When you sign up for CarePlus our team will help you:

  • find the right doctor
  • get appointments quickly
  • get faster access to your medical information—like lab results
  • obtain referrals to specialists and the pre-authorizations you may need
  • get your insurance questions answered