When trying to form healthy habits many of us first look to changing our diets or increasing physical activity, but we often overlook the impact that a lack of sleep can have on our health. In general, sleep deprivation may lead to weight gain and increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, poor mental health, and even premature death.
Many people think that eating late at night affects weight gain due to the time of day, but the main reason people who lack sleep tend to gain weight is because they are taking in more calories than they normally would if they were getting the recommended amount of sleep each night. The amount of sleep you need varies by age.
Preschoolers need roughly 10-13 hours of sleep throughout the day, school-aged children should get about 9-12 hours per day, teens about 8-10 hours, and adults at least 7 hours per night. Habits to improve sleep duration and quality include:
- going to bed and waking up at the same time every day
- keeping your bedroom, dark, quiet, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature
- removing or turning off all electronic devices in your bedroom such as TVs, computers, and phones
- avoiding large meals, caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol before bed
- fitting in physical activity throughout the day in order to fall asleep more easily at night
Even if you are getting the recommended amount of sleep at night, you may not be getting quality sleep. Signs that you may not be getting quality sleep include snoring or gasping for air during the night, daytime sleepiness, or general fatigue. Consult your doctor if you have concerns about your sleep quality.