The Importance of Healthy Sleep

By Karla Vosberg, MSN, RN

It seems like sleep has become a rather low priority.  We’d rather watch TV, check out social media, or just enjoy some “alone time.” How much sleep do we actually need and are we getting enough of it? The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults aim for 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep every night. Most statistics show that people are averaging less than 7 hours a night.

Although it might feel nice to be able to catch a few more zzzz’s on the weekend, it is important to note that you should follow the same sleep routine, including bedtime, whether you are working or not to keep your body in the pattern of sleep mode.  So, what’s the big deal if you don’t get enough sleep (especially if you enjoy the java as a quick pick-me-up)?

Consistently not getting enough sleep has been linked to the following medical conditions:
• cancer
• obesity
• mood disorders
• type 2 diabetes
• metabolic syndrome
• injuries and accidents
• cardiovascular disease
• gastrointestinal problems
• musculoskeletal disorders
• reproductive issues

Fatigue from not getting enough sleep can negatively affect your skills and intellectual abilities. What does that mean? Your mood and ability to learn are negatively impacted as well as your ability to communicate well. You might not be able to plan and perform as well and even your memory is not as good.  When you are tired, you could make poor decisions and be more apt to take unhealthy or unnecessary risks.

One unique population that seems to have an especially difficult time getting the proper sleep are those that work the night shift. People who work the night shift also need to make sleep a priority to stay healthy.

Night shifters need to invest in tools that may help them sleep better (noise machines, blackout curtains, etc.), monitor their medications, be mindful of caffeine, and make sure they are alert enough to drive home.  It’s important to make breaks as restful as possible, eat healthy snacks and schedule quality time.  Failing to ensure adequate sleep may lead to fatigue, which can be a major problem related to job performance and safety.  In the healthcare field especially, we have an ethical obligation to make sure we have adequate rest before offering or accepting work assignments.

Here are some tips on how to get more rest and better quality rest:
• appreciate the good, try to let go of your worries
• use mindful breathing techniques and/or meditate to help you relax
• picture yourself sleeping
• keep tabs on caffeine intake- consuming caffeine close to sleep can make it hard to fall asleep
• shut down to get shut-eye- electronics can keep us awake and keep our mind focusing
• create an evening environment- keep your room cool and dark
• exercise
• prioritize sleep
• be a sleep scientist- figure out what works for you by trying different things


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