Health Tips Tuesday: importance of sleep

Dr. Karin Johnson spoke with Western Mass News about why a good night’s sleep is important to your overall health. (Sponsored by Tommy Car Auto Group)
Published: May. 16, 2023 at 9:41 AM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Dr. Karin Johnson, a neurologist specializing in sleep medicine at Baystate Health, spoke with Western Mass News about why a good night’s sleep is important to your overall health.

Why is sleep so important?

Johnson: “Sleep is really the time that our body does a lot of work. It helps us heal, it helps our immune system, it’s really important for memory, and toxins are freed from our brain, which is really important for disorders like dementia, and it just lets our body get that energy source for the next day and all that is really important for our overall health, as well as our brain health in terms of cognition, functioning, and alertness.”

What would be the impact of someone not getting enough sleep?

Johnson: “People tend to feel tired. Some people are sleepy where they’re actually dozing off and obviously, that’s a safety risk in terms of drowsy driving, getting hurt at work, and people don’t learn that well. Students do worse in school if they don’t sleep as well. We also make poor decisions, so people are more likely to speed while driving, text while driving, or get into trouble and then health wise, we see big effects on the cardiovascular system, so strokes, heart attacks, more likely to be obese, and pretty much every aspect of our health is affected by sleep and we know that if we can improve sleep, we can make people feel better and be happier overall throughout their lifetime.”

What would be your advice for someone who wants to get more quality sleep and it’s just not working for them?

Johnson: “You mentioned quality of sleep and there’s four aspects of sleep. One is the duration of sleep. Most adults need about seven to eight hours. Most children need longer, at least 9 or more hours if younger. Then there’s the quality of sleep. Different disorders like sleep apnea can make quality of sleep worse. Then there’s the timing of sleep. People that sleep in a lot later on the weekends and get up a lot earlier on weekdays or that have a really late schedule and sleep in late. All of those things are associated with worse functioning and worse health. In terms of getting enough sleep, the biggest thing is prioritizing it and making that decision to get to bed on time and get enough time to sleep. Now, if you’re struggling to get to sleep, even if you’re trying, then we talk about sleep hygiene: making sure it’s cool, dark, quiet, getting the lights down, getting electronics off, maybe taking a hot bath, trying to separate anxieties of the day from the bedroom, and then just not lying in bed if you can’t sleep, often your mind starts racing and just trying to sleep gets you more roused and makes it more difficult, so getting out of bed and waiting until you feel tired again and getting back in are some good tricks to help people sleep better.”