According to a 2013 poll by the National Sleep Foundation, almost 4 in 5 Americans don't get as much sleep as they should during the week. On average, adults are thought to need at least 8 hours of sleep a night, although some can get by with less and some won't do well without more. But the survey found that, on workdays, only 21% of Americans actually get a full eight hours of sleep, and another 21% get less than six. For many of us, the thought of spending more time sleeping is, well, a big yawn. On the other hand, the thought of being smarter, thinner, healthier and more cheerful — that has a certain appeal. And those fortunately are just a few of the advantages that can be ours if we consistently get enough sleep.
Additionally, people receiving adequate sleep are more likely to have better skin, better memories, better judgment, livelier libidos and live longer lives. If that doesn't convince us to catch our Z's, I'm not sure what will? A study published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology last year found the same to be true even for children. When kids ages 8 to 12 slept for just one hour less for four nights, they didn't function as well — either cognitively or emotionally — during the day. We put so much emphasis on diet, nutrition, exercise. Sleep is in the back seat. In fact, no matter how much we work out, no matter how well we eat, we can't be in top physical shape unless we also get plenty of sleep. What should we do if we don't get enough sleep?
First of all, follow the general p's and q's for getting sleep: avoid caffeine after noon; avoid alcohol and technology (TV, computer, texting, etc.) too close to bedtime. And when we get up tomorrow, we can make a point of getting plenty of light right away. That will encourage our biological clocks to reset themselves. A nap could help too, as long is it's short (15 to 20 minutes) and carefully timed (at 2 or 3 in the afternoon). Unfortunately, though, there are no quick fixes. For one hour of sleep loss, you need 24 hours to recover. So get yourself in the habit of getting the sleep you need.