The Importance of Sleep

— Written By N.C. Cooperative Extension


The quantity and quality of your sleep matter in staying healthy.  Most adults need between 7 and 8 hours sleep.  Children need more.  We need to sleep through the different stages in order to feel well rested and energetic and also to help us learn or make memories.  Our sleep affects our performance, mood and health in the following ways.

  • Performance – cutting our sleep by even one hour can affect our abilities to focus, make decisions and slow down our response time.  Our pathways in the brain that important for learning and memory are active while we sleep and help us with mental challenges and problem solving.
  • Mood – People who chronically miss out on sleep are more likely to be depressed.  Even if we just miss out occasionally, we can become irritable and have poor behavior.
  • Health – During sleep our bodies are producing hormones that are important for growth in children, building muscle mass, repairing cells and tissues and also fight off infections.  Research shows that if you do not get good quality and quantity of sleep you are at higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and other medical conditions.  They have also found out that some of the hormones released during sleep affect our energy level and that those who do not get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight, have diabetes and prefer eating foods that are high in calories and carbohydrates.

To get a into a good sleep routine try these tips.

  • Stick to a sleep schedule even on the weekends.
  • Exercise regularly but not closer than 5 or 6 hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine.
  • Avoid alcohol before bed because it keeps you in the lighter stages of sleep.
  • Avoid large meals and beverages close to bedtime because indigestion and too many fluids can interfere with sleep stages.
  • Avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep if possible.
  • Relax before bed with activities like reading or taking a bath.
  • Have a good sleeping environment with cool temperatures and little noise.
  • Have the right daylight sun exposure of at least 30 minutes per day.
  • Keep your naps to under an hour and before 3 p.m.

So even though we have more daylight during the summer, try and make sure you are not skimping on your sleep needs both quantity and quality.