Health experts encourage us to get more sleep, but many successful people cut corners on sleep: President Donald Trump gets three to four hours of sleep each night. Former President Barack Obama averaged six hours a night during his presidency. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer sleeps four to six hours nightly, and Martha Stewart averages less than four hours.
If that's a price of success, does it carry some hidden costs?
When we cut into our sleep time to "maximize productivity" or just to keep up, we may be compromising our health, says TriHealth sleep expert Anthony Suchoski, MD. He emphasizes sleep's vital importance for health and long life.
"Sleep helps filter out neurotoxins in the brain," he explains. "For the majority of people, seven to eight hours a night is optimal."
He continues, "If you get enough rest, obstacles in your day are molehills versus mountains. Good sleep brings increased physical well-being, better memory and mood and more cognitive clarity. Everything is easier if you get enough sleep."
In a recent study, 45 percent of Americans said poor or insufficient sleep had affected their daily life in the previous week. Sleep issues range from not getting enough sleep to disruptions in the normal sleep process. About a third of the population has trouble falling asleep.
In all cases, not getting proper sleep leads to:
- Poor quality of work
- Mental fog
- Memory issues
- Changes in mood
Chronic sleep deprivation may be a link to Alzheimer's disease, dementia, high blood sugar levels and problems with your cardiovascular system.
Eight Tips for Better Sleep
Although it may seem that you need even more sleep during the long, dark days of winter, Dr. Suchoski says sleep requirements don't change with the seasons. The feeling of sleepiness results from staying indoors, eating more and being less active.
He recommends these tips for better sleep at any time of year:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Try to keep roughly the same schedule - even on weekends - to avoid disruption of your body's sleep-wake rhythm. It's helpful to have a bedtime routine for children.
- Limit electronics in the hour before bedtime. Light from computers, cell phones and televisions triggers the brain to stay alert. Dr. Suchoski notes, "Some devices now have filters that reduce the blue light that keeps your brain awake."
- Be physically active. Exercise (especially in sunshine) helps you sleep more deeply, although you don't want to do strenuous exercise just before going to bed.
- Avoid heavy or large meals before bedtime. Eat lightly if you are having a meal less than two to three hours before bedtime. Don't drink alcoholic drinks close to bedtime.
- Limit nicotine and caffeine (soda, coffee, tea and chocolate), which are stimulants that can interfere with sleep. The effects of caffeine can last up to eight hours.
- Keep your bedroom quiet, cool and dark. Don't do work or watch television in your bedroom. This will make it easier for you to get to sleep and stay asleep.
- Take a hot bath or use relaxation techniques before bed. Meditation, guided imagery or even gentle yoga are good ways to clear your mind and help you relax. If your thoughts are racing, make a to-do list before you go to bed and then let those thoughts go.
- Limit afternoon naps. Naps lower your urge to sleep later in the evening.