How many hours of sleep do you get? If the answer is “not enough”, you are not alone. The average adult needs at least 7-9 hours of sleep on a regular basis but 40% of Americans are getting less than seven. Yup, we are sleep deprived.

After months or even years of operating on a sleep deficit, we may think we don’t need more than a few hours shut-eye.  We have become so used to functioning on too little sleep that we don’t realize that it’s just not enough.

But, being used to it doesn’t mitigate the health risks.

People who routinely sleep less than seven hours are 3 times more likely to get sick. People who sleep less than six hours have a 3.5 times higher risk of high blood pressure.  And, failure to get those required zzz’s can make you both overweight and stressed; constant sleep deprivation plays havoc with stress and appetite-regulating hormones.

In our 24/7 world, it can be hard to just shut ‘er down – mentally and physically.  And the longer we’ve made it a habit to operate on a sleep deficit, the harder it can be to break. In fact, being anxious about not getting enough sleep can actually make it harder to fall asleep!  If you are one of those folks who have a hard time falling asleep, try these tips:

  1. Exercise at least 30 mins. a day – go for a walk, ride a bike, play a little ball
  2. Spend 30 mins. outside in natural sunlight
  3. Establish a set time to go to bed and wake up
  4. Develop a pre-bedtime routine, including a small easily digested snack
  5. Make your bedroom cool, dark, quiet – that means no electronics

Even if you are a die-hard “I’m at my peak on six hours sleep” type, challenge yourself to get an additional hour or two for a week.  You will be surprised at the improvement that can make in your energy level and general sense of well being.

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Yolonda Mays
Yolonda Mays is a Navy veteran, University of Tennessee alumnus, former lifestyle coach and self-proclaimed foodie. She currently works in food service management and spends most of her days obsessing over the price of avocados. You can check out Yolonda's blog at where she writes about everything from budgeting to the relationship between nutrition and emotional health.