|March 27 – April 2 is National Sleep Awareness Week®
NIH Offers New Comprehensive Guide to Healthy Sleep
In today's "24/7" society, many people cut back on sleep to squeeze in more
time for work, family obligations, and other activities. But skimping on sleep
can be harmful. A comprehensive new handbook from the National Heart, Lung, and
Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) explains that
sleep is not merely “down time” when the brain shuts off and the body rests.
“Our brains are very active during sleep, and research has shown that adequate
sleep is important to our overall health, safety, and performance," notes Michael
Twery, PhD, acting director of NHLBI's National Center on Sleep Disorders Research. "Scientists
also have a better understanding of how a chronic lack of sleep or an untreated
sleep disorder can impair health. Like good nutrition and physical activity,
adequate sleep is critical for continued good health.”
“Your Guide to Healthy Sleep” provides the latest science-based information
about sleep in an easy-to-understand format. The 60-page handbook describes how
and why we sleep, and offers tips for getting adequate sleep, such as sticking
to a sleep schedule, relaxing before going to bed, and using daylight or bright
light to help you adjust to jet lag and shift work schedules.
Sleep disorders such as insomnia (trouble falling asleep or staying asleep,
or unrefreshing sleep), sleep apnea (brief periods of pauses in breathing or
shallow breathing while you are sleeping), restless legs syndrome (an almost
irresistible urge to move the legs that can make it difficult to fall asleep
or stay asleep), and narcolepsy (excessive and overwhelming daytime sleepiness
despite adequate nighttime sleep) are also described with information on diagnosis
and treatment. In addition, a sample sleep diary helps readers track their sleep-related
Sleep needs vary from person to person, and they change throughout the lifecycle.
Newborns sleep between 16 and 18 hours a day, and children in preschool sleep
between 10 and 12 hours a day. School-aged children and teens need at least 9
hours of sleep a day. Research suggests that adults — including seniors — need
at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each day to be well rested and to perform at their
Studies have linked sleep to our ability to learn, create memories, and solve
problems. Sleep has also been tied to mood. Without enough sleep, a person has
trouble focusing, and responding quickly — a potentially dangerous combination,
such as when driving. In addition, mounting evidence links a chronic lack of
sleep with an increased risk for developing obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular
disease, and infections.
The quality of sleep is also important. How well rested you are and how well
you function the next day depend on your total sleep time and how much of the
various stages of sleep you get each night. Yet, each year an estimated 70 million
adult Americans have some type of sleep problem.
"Although there are times during the day when we are naturally likely to feel
drowsy, in many cases, sleepiness is a sign that something is amiss," adds Twery. "The
handbook offers several ideas to help you improve your sleep, but if you feel
that you regularly have problems breathing during sleep, wake up unrefreshed
after a full night's sleep, or frequently feel very sleepy during the day, you
should see your doctor to find out if you could have a sleep disorder."
“Your Guide to Healthy Sleep” can be downloaded free at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/sleep/healthy_sleep.htm.
Printed copies are available for $3.50 through the NHLBI website or from the
NHLBI Information Center at P.O. Box 30105, Bethesda, MD 20824-0105, or at 301-592-8573
or 240-629-3255 (TTY).
To learn more about healthy sleep and sleep disorders:
National Center on Sleep Disorders Research
Sleep, Sleep Disorders, and Biological Rhythms supplemental curriculum for use
in high school biology classes
Star Sleeper educational materials for children and their caregivers http://starsleep.nhlbi.nih.gov.
Note: National Sleep Awareness Week® is a registered trademark of the
National Sleep Foundation.
The National Center on Sleep Disorders Research was established in 1993
through U.S. congressional legislation authorizing support for sleep-related
research and educational programs, and the coordination of related activities
among the NIH, other federal agencies, and nongovernmental organizations. NIH
annually funds more than $189 million in sleep-related research conducted by
researchers in universities and hospitals in the U.S. and abroad. For more
information, visit www.nhlbi.nih.gov/sleep.
Part of the National Institutes of Health, the National Heart, Lung, and
Blood Institute plans, conducts, and supports research related to the causes,
prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood
diseases; and sleep disorders. The Institute also administers national health
education campaigns on women and heart disease, healthy weight for children,
and other topics. NHLBI press releases and other materials are available online
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research
Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of
the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal
agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical
research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common
and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.