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Getting Enough Sleep Can Reduce Sick Days

November 28, 2014

We’ve all been there before. You struggle to get out of bed in the morning, barely make it to work on time, and find yourself feeling groggy by midday. Over time, the pattern repeats itself until one day, your body just won’t cooperate and you call in sick, missing a few days of work.

If this scenario sounds all too familiar, you may not be getting enough sleep.

A recent study by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health showed that adults who slept at least seven to eight hours per night missed fewer days of work due to illness.

We all know sleep is important, yet, for some reason, getting a good night’s rest is one of the first things to get bumped from the priority list when life gets in the way. Between work, family and social commitments, people often think they can skimp on sleep and still be ok.

I’m here to tell you that sleep is very important to your health—and you need to make it a priority. If you’re tossing and turning at night instead of sleeping, here’s some helpful information about what may be causing your restlessness and some ways you can fix it.

Sleep Quality Matters—A Lot

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), between 50 to 70 million Americans experience sleep or wakefulness disorders. It seems that we are a sleep deprived nation, and that isn’t a good thing, as lack of sleep can compromise your immune system and make you more prone to illness.

While seven to eight hours of sleep a night is optimal, not everyone will need the same amount of sleep to function in the same way. Everybody has different sleep requirements. What’s most important is the quality of uninterrupted sleep you have. For example, if you are sleeping eight to nine hours a night but that sleep is fragmented, then you can’t consider this a good night’s rest. On the other hand, if you are soundly sleeping six hours a night without waking up, then you may be getting enough quality sleep.

The Finnish study highlights this fact. Study participants answered questions about the typical number of hours they slept, their insomnia symptoms and sleep disturbances. Researchers found that men who had ongoing insomnia missed work due to sickness at least ten days a year, while those who didn’t suffer from insomnia only missed five days. Women also showed similar results.

Many things can impact the quality of your sleep, including sleep apnea, which affects more than 18 million Americans, snoring, access to technology and the inability to “turn off” your mind.

Sleep is very important to your overall health, so if you have difficulty sleeping through the night you should talk to your doctor. He or she can help to identify the problem and determine if  behavioral and environmental changes will help, or if more serious intervention is required.

How You Can Get a Better Night’s Rest

Eating habits, TV watching and electronics usage all can affect your sleep. If you tend to consume caffeine or alcohol at night, this can interrupt your sleep or make it difficult to go to sleep. Alcohol in particular can ruin your REM sleep, which is the restorative part of the sleep cycle.

Excessive use of the computer, cell phone, video games or television before bed also can affect your sleeping habits. According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 95 percent of people use some type of electronics a few nights a week within an hour before bed. However, researchers have found that this behavior can disrupt sleep because the lights from these gadgets send alerting signals to the brain, causing you to feel wide awake even when you should be asleep.

Practicing good “sleep hygiene” is the best way to eliminate these habits. You should set a sleep schedule for yourself and make sure you go to bed and wake up at the same time as often as possible. Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening and turn off the electronics, especially an hour or so before bed. Instead, do something calming and relaxing at night to help you fall asleep, like reading a book or listening to soothing music.

Sleep helps you function optimally and perform better at work. In addition to diet and exercise, it’s a critical component of a healthy lifestyle. So, if you’re struggling to get a good night’s rest, make it your mission today to get several hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep. Your health will be all the better for it.