According to a recent survey from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), 85% of U.S. adults do not get the recommended seven hours or more of sleep every night. After a challenging and stressful year, the New Year provides Americans with the opportunity to refocus on the importance of making healthy sleep a priority.
“Our survey findings show a worrying trend of national sleep deprivation,” said AASM president Dr. Kannan Ramar. “Insufficient sleep contributes to the risk for several of today’s public health epidemics, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. As such, it is critical that we incorporate healthy sleep habits and routines into our daily lives to be our best in 2021.”
Why should we make healthy sleep a New Year’s resolution?
The AASM recommends that adults sleep at least seven hours each night to promote optimal health and well-being. In the same survey, slightly more than one-third (34%) of Americans said they sleep for seven or more hours only two nights — or fewer — each week, in line with findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Regularly sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and frequent mental distress. Resolve to make 365 days of healthy sleep your goal for 2021 by keeping in mind its extensive benefits:
- Sleep makes you healthier – Without good sleep, both mental and physical health suffer greatly, putting Americans at an increased risk of chronic disease.
- Sleep makes you happier – Sleep has a positive effect on mood and overall sense of well-being and can improve relationships with others.
- Sleep makes you smarter – Getting the right amount of sleep is conducive to learning, memory recall, creativity and cognitive function.
What is inhibiting us from achieving the recommended seven hours of sleep?
Despite evidence showing the importance of adequate sleep, it often can take a back seat to other behaviors we find important. According to the AASM’s July 2020 survey, a vast majority (68%) of U.S. adults lose sleep due to drinking alcohol past bedtime. Americans also report staying up past their bedtime to binge-watch a TV show or stream a video series (88%), read a book (66%), watch a sporting event (58%) and play video games (50%).
How has the pandemic impacted sleep?
With a change in daily routines, the COVID-19 pandemic is also disrupting sleep for Americans. According to the AASM survey, one in five Americans (22%) are sleeping worse due to the pandemic, and 19% are getting less nightly sleep.
“Despite the fact that many Americans are no longer commuting to and from work, it is paramount to establish and maintain morning and bedtime rituals, such as getting up and going to bed at regular times to achieve adequate sleep,” added Ramar.
What are some tips to kick off the New Year with healthy sleep?
- Obtain adequate sleep – Set a bedtime that allows you to get enough sleep so you wake up feeling refreshed and alert. Identify an appropriate bedtime for your age and lifestyle using the AASM bedtime calculator.
- Establish a bedtime and waketime routine – Consider developing a nightly routine that evokes calm and relaxation, which may include reading, journaling or meditating. Even for those working remotely, allow ample time to wake, reflect and prepare for the day ahead.
- Ensure the bedroom is a space for sleep – Limit noise and distractions by making your bedroom quiet, dark and a little bit cool – and only use the bed for sleeping, not watching TV or reading.
- Set boundaries for blue light exposure – Consider setting a technology curfew by turning off your TV and other electronic devices 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. Silence your notifications and charge your devices away from your bed so you are not tempted to look at social media or news alerts.
- Limit alcohol, caffeine and large meals before bed – Avoid consuming caffeine after lunch and avoid alcohol near bedtime, as both can disrupt sleep. If hungry after dinner, keep snacks small, sugar-free and easily digestible so as to not disrupt sleep.
For PDFs of the AASM’s 2019 and 2020 Sleep Prioritization Survey results, please visit https://aasm.org/about/newsroom/.
For more information on the importance of healthy sleep, visit SleepEducation.org.