Most adults do best when they get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each day. Sleep gives your brain a little vacation. During sleep, your brain has time to:
- Grow and repair cells.
- Form new pathways for learning, remembering, and processing information.
- Rebuild your energy for the next day.
When you don't sleep well night after night, you can have what's called sleep deprivation, or sleep debt.
Besides affecting your energy level and your mood, sleep debt affects your body in other ways. For example:
- You may feel pain more easily.
- Your risk for heart disease is higher.
- Your immune system has a harder time fighting infection.
- You may have mood swings.
- You may have trouble learning, solving problems, and remembering.
Not getting enough sleep is linked with a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including diabetes, obesity, and depression. Sleep debt can also cause serious problems like car crashes and work-related accidents.
What can cause sleep problems?
Many things can cause sleep problems, including:
- Changes to your sleep schedule.
- Stress. Stress can be caused by fear about a single event, such as giving a speech. Or you may have ongoing stress, such as worry about work or school.
- Depression, anxiety, and other mental or emotional conditions.
- Changes in your sleep habits or surroundings. This includes changes that happen where you sleep, such as noise, light, or sleeping in a different bed. It also includes changes in your sleep pattern, such as having jet lag or working a late shift.
- Health problems, such as pain, breathing problems, and restless legs syndrome.
- Lack of regular exercise.
- Using alcohol, nicotine, or caffeine before bed.
How can you get help for sleep problems?
If you often have trouble sleeping or you feel very tired and find it hard to function during the day, talk with your doctor. Your doctor can check for any health problems that may be affecting your sleep. And let your doctor know about all medicines and natural health products you take. Some may affect your sleep.
A counselor or therapist can help you cope with stress and may offer techniques for falling asleep. There are also steps you can take on your own to manage your stress.
To help you fall asleep, you may need to change your routine before you go to bed. Try limiting caffeine during the day. And avoid using your TV, computer, or smartphone while you are in bed.