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Consumer Health Resources: Sleep--When you DON'T snooze, you lose!

Resources and tips for patients and health consumers

Popular culture teaches us that "if you snooze you lose," but research shows just the opposite—sleep is important! Learn why getting quality sleep is essential to health.

Find out what happens when we get the right kind of sleep and what negative consequences, like loss of productivity, result from not getting enough rest. Review tips and tricks to improve sleep patterns.

Sleep: The Facts

How much sleep do you need?*

  • Infants: as much as 16 hours per day
  • 1-5 years: 10-14 hours per day
  • 6-12 years: 9-12 hours per day
  • 13-18 years: 8-10 hours per day
  • Adults: 7-9 hours per day

*Learn more at:


  • According to the CDC, "A third of US adults report that they usually get less than the recommended amount of sleep."
  • A MedlinePlus article reports "national surveys show that 30 % of U.S. adults sleep fewer than 7 hours a night. As many as 30 % of adults report daytime sleepiness....[and] 70 % of adolescents sleep less than the recommended 8-9 hours each night."
  • It is estimated that driver sleepiness is a factor in about 100,000 car accidents each year, resulting in about 1,500 deaths.
  • Lack of sleep plays a role in "on the job accidents" such as numerous plane and ship incidents.
  • "Little Sleep, BIG COST" Infographic ~American Academy of Sleep Medicine

cartoon image of a researcherExplore more sleep disorder myths/facts

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's "Your Guide to Healthy Sleep" (available online, in PDF and several e-reader formats) is designed for patients and provides a comprehensive review of important sleep-related information.

Benefits of Sleep

Sleeping the right amount of hours:

  • Improves our ability to:
    • Learn
    • Focus
    • Remember
    • Problem solve
    • And be creative
  • Lowers blood pressure and allows our heart and blood vessels to rest
  • Helps certain hormones regulate:
    • Growth
    • The repair of cells and tissues
    • The immune system (to fight infection)
    • Blood sugar levels (which affect energy)
    • Appetite
  • Boosts our mood
  • Helps us better manage our emotions and behaviors (impulse control)

How Sleep Effects Your Health from NIH

Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

Symptoms of not getting enough sleep may include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Moodiness and/or emotional instability
  • Poor impulse control
  • Forgetfulness
  • Increased appetite
  • Accident prone
  • Reduced accuracy
  • Decreased productivity


Did you know...

After several nights of losing sleep—even a loss of just 1–2 hours per nightyour ability to function suffers as if you haven't slept at all for a day or two.

Lack of sleep also may lead to microsleep. Microsleep refers to brief moments of sleep that occur when you're normally awake. ~NIH

Think about what vital information might be missed during a microsleep that occurs at work, while driving, in a classroom, on the telephone, in a healthcare setting, while operating machinery....

"The costs of insufficient sleep in 2020 for the U.S. range from $299 billion to $433 billion. However, this increases by 2030, where the range is from $318 to $456 billion." Why Sleep Matters—The Economic Costs of Insufficient Sleep

Learn more: Sleep, Performance, and Public Safety from Harvard Medical School's Sleep Medicine Department

Insufficient sleep has been linked to these chronic diseases/conditions:

Diabetes: increased chance of developing type 2 diabetes, elevated blood sugar levels

Cardiovascular Disease: increased chance of stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease, irregular heart beat (arrhythmias)

Infection: the immune system is suppressed by lack of sleep increasing susceptibility to infection (like colds)

People who averaged < 7 hours of sleep a night were about 3X more likely to develop cold symptoms than people who got > 8 hours of sleep -- Learn more at: "Sleep and Health" from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School

Did you know?? Sleep-deprived people given the flu shot develop only 1/2 as many antibodies as people getting enough sleep -- Learn more

Mental Health: increased chance of depression and/or anxiety

Obesity: lack of sleep leads to negative metabolic and hypothalamus function changes, plus, the longer a person is awake, the greater the chance of "grazing" (snacking)

Learn more at:

Sleep Disorders

Key sleep disorders include:

How to Talk to Your Doctor about Your Sleep --from the Sleep Foundation

Tips to Improve Sleep

  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, heavy meals, and strenuous exercise too close to bedtime
  • Limit fluids close to bedtime
  • Sleep in a quiet, cool, dark room
  • Avoid bright lights and electronic screens
  • Ban "devices" from your sleep space

More ways to improve your sleep:
Six Things to Avoid Before Bedtime from

How to Sleep Better: 37 Hacks from
Healthy Sleep Habits from the NIH

Complementary/Alternative Health Strategies For Sleep

A variety of mind & body, herbal and supplement therapies are associated with sleep.
For a review of treatments and the scientific evidence associated with them, see:
Sleep Disorders:In Depth from the NIH: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

Recommended Reading

In addition to the articles referenced above, take a look at:
Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency Health Topic from the NIH
Sleep Disorders Health Topic from
Reliable Information About Sleep, Sleep Disorders, and Treatment Options from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM)

Need Help?


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  • Last Updated: Mar 15, 2024 11:13 AM
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