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  • The science behind why sleep matters

    One in three adults in the United States report experiencing a lack of sleep, according to recent research by the National Sleep Foundation. Sleep is important. Insufficient sleep often relates to a myriad of physical and mental health issues such as weight gain, hypertension, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, and depression. In a recent article in Psychology Today, journalist Holly Pevzner reviews the research behind why sleep is important and what to do when you have trouble getting enough of it. Pevzner pointed out that although one in three people experience a lack of sleep, only 10% of people prioritize sleep over exercise and healthy eating.

    How Much Sleep is Necessary?

    If sleep is important, how much do we need? Pevzner reviewed findings about the sleep-related needs of people of all ages. For example, a two year old might need 14 hours of sleep, whereas a 9 year old might need 12 hours. Adequate sleep plays a crucial role in socialization and in the development of a child’s brain. Pevzner pointed out that the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex, the regions of the brain involved in decision-making and emotional responses, are affected by lack of sleep. Insufficient sleep can relate to tweens and adolescents engaging in risky behaviors such as use of tobacco and other substances.

    In general, adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Adults in their 20’s are most resilient to disruptions in sleep, Pevzner noted. They are able to have inconsistent sleep patterns and still perform fairly well at their jobs. However, this ability diminishes in their 40’s. As far as older adults, people often believe they require little sleep. However, people over 65 typically require 7 to 8 hours. Pevzner noted that about half of older adults complain of difficulty sleeping. Difficulty sleeping can involve simple age-related factors, such as no longer following a traditional workday schedule. However, the primary causes of insufficient sleep in older adults involve physical and mental health issues and the medications used to treat them.

    What now?

    If sleep is important, how do we make sure we get enough? In future articles, we will continue discussing the findings reviewed by Pevzner including suggestions by sleep scientists and clinicians on how to address sleep issues.

    Dr. Jason von Stietz specializes in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Sport/Performance Psychology in Torrance, CA. He works in the Torrance office and is available for a free initial phone consultation. Dr. von Stietz works with individuals from Long Beach, the greater Los Angeles area, and the South Bay including Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and El Segundo.