The importance of sleep

Sleeping woman

Here’s why sleep really matters

When you’re busy and trying hard to fit a lot in, sleep is probably the first place you cut corners. After all, losing a few hours of sleep now and then can’t hurt. Right?

Not exactly. Sleep is a lot more important than it may seem. It’s vital to your health. Not getting enough of it, or not getting enough good sleep, affects your body and mind. If you’re working toward a healthier lifestyle, getting enough good quality sleep is as important as exercise and a healthy diet.

Why is sleep so important?

Scientists don’t really know why we have health problems related to sleep loss. Changes in the levels of hormones the body releases during sleep could play a part, as could the simple strain of staying awake. Upsetting the strong need for sleep from our own internal clocks, loss of the deepest stages of our sleep and other factors may all play a role.1

How much sleep do I need?

  Age   Hours2
Newborns (0-3 months) 14-17
Infants (4-11 months) 12-15
Toddlers (1-2 years) 11-14
Preschoolers (3-5) 10-13
School-age children (6-13) 10-11
Teens (14-17) 8-10
Adults (18-64) 7-9
Older adults (65+) 7-8

Short-term issues

When you’ve lost sleep, you know it the next day. But there’s more to it than feeling tired. Did you know that losing as little as one-and-a-half hours of nighttime sleep for just one night can make you less alert the next day by as much as 32 percent? It also affects your ability to think and process information. Also, sleepiness more than doubles the risk of work injury. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving causes at least 100,000 accidents, 71,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths every year.3

Long-term issues

Chronic sleep deprivation can have negative effects on your mental and physical well-being.

Effects on mental health:

  • Unable to deal with stress. Even daily activities such as stopping at the grocery can seem like overwhelming tasks.
  • Damaged memory. Deep sleep helps your brain cells talk to each other. When they can’t, it can affect memory.
  • Trouble thinking. It’s hard to stay alert and focused.
  • More sadness. Long-term sleep loss tends to make us less hopeful and less friendly.
  • Less creative. Lack of sleep may have an effect on thinking actions that rely on our feelings.1

Effects on physical health:

  • Higher blood pressure. Even half a night of lost sleep can increase blood pressure in people with a tendency toward high blood pressure.
  • Increased appetite. Sleep loss changes the way your brain handles the pleasure response and can increase your desire to eat. Researchers believe that chronic sleep deprivation may be linked to rising levels of obesity.
  • A higher risk of heart attacks. Lack of sleep is one of several factors that can increase risk of heart attacks.1

Humana considers CPAP machines for treating sleep apnea to be durable medical equipment. They are covered as part of your plan when you have a diagnosis of sleep apnea and pre-authorization.

Sleep apnea: A widespread cause of poor sleep

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing stops and starts during sleep. It raises your risk for stroke, obesity, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure.4 There are several types of sleep apnea, but the most common is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Anyone may develop it, but it is most seen in middle-aged and older adults, as well as in people who are overweight.

Symptoms may include daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, your partner noticing when you stop breathing during sleep, morning headaches, trouble thinking during the day and depression or irritability.

OSA occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax too much to allow normal breathing. Your airway narrows or closes as you breathe in, which may lower the level of oxygen in your blood. Your brain senses this lack of breathing and briefly wakes you from sleep so that you can reopen your airway. This awakening is usually so brief that you don’t remember it.

If you have OSA, treatment may involve continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). A CPAP machine is a device with a face mask attached to a small pump. The pressure of the air breathed is constant and a little stronger than that of the surrounding air, which is just enough to keep your upper airways open. The CPAP also comes in a non-mask version with tubes that fit over your nose.4

Humana considers CPAP machines for treating sleep apnea to be durable medical equipment. They are covered as part of your plan when you have a diagnosis of sleep apnea and pre-authorization.

Are you at risk for sleep apnea?

Take our quiz to learn more.

Humana considers CPAP machines for treating sleep apnea to be durable medical equipment. They are covered as part of your plan when you have a diagnosis of sleep apnea and pre-authorization.

Make sleep a healthy priority

If you want to get more sleep, or better quality sleep, you need to make it a priority. Schedule it like any other daily activity. Don’t make it the thing you do only after everything else is done.2 It’s just too important!

Sources:
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