Sleep can become an afterthought in today’s busy world. Whether it’s working late, watching your favorite shows, or staying current on world events, there are tons of distractions to keep us awake. However, lack of sleep can have worse consequences than simply feeling sleepy. Here are three major reasons you need sleep… and three ways to get enough.
- Sleep Helps You Think
Have you ever stayed up late watching sports or preparing for a busy day? Sleep deprivation hurts our ability to reason and remember. Studies show sleeplessness can hurt both short-term and long-term memory.  Even decision making and reasoning are hampered by sleep deprivation.  So, getting quality sleep can help you be sharper and more productive.
- Sleeplessness is Linked to Mental Disorders
Insomnia, a medical condition where people have difficulty sleeping, was found to precede 69 percent of depression cases in one study.  Even for children, data suggests poor sleep can signal the onset of depression.  What’s more, other research shows 24 to 36 percent of people with insomnia also suffer from anxiety disorders. 
- Drowsiness is Dangerous
Did you know drowsy driving can be similar to drunk driving? One study found that sleep-deprived drivers drove as poorly as drunk drivers.  Sleep deprivation can be dangerous in the workplace, too. Research shows sleep-deprived workers are much likelier to have workplace accidents.  In fact, a study conducted in the Netherlands showed highly-fatigued workers were 70 percent likelier to have accidents than workers with low fatigue levels. Sleep loss can be dangerous for elderly people, too. For example, data indicates sleep-deprived older women are likelier to suffer falls than those with adequate sleep. 
It’s obvious we all need sleep. But what’s a healthy amount? The answer varies by age according to National Sleep Foundation recommendations.  Newborns require 14 to 17 hours of sleep, more than any other age group. Young adults need 7 to 9 hours, and older adults require 7 to 8 hours.
With that established, let’s talk about how to get enough sleep.
- Set a Schedule
A regular sleep schedule is great for sleep at any age — it ensures you get enough sleep to power through life. A good sleep cycle not only means getting enough sleep, but also enables better sleep. One study found a regular sleep cycle resulted in better sleep and less trouble going to sleep.  Plus, the same study found people with a regular sleep cycle were less sleepy during the day. Other research even found irregular sleep patterns nearly doubled the risk of cardiovascular disease in older adults. 
- Put the Screens Away
The National Sleep Foundation recommends avoiding screens on electronic devices like phones, tablets and laptops for at least 30 minutes before bedtime.  These devices can emit blue light, which research shows suppresses our secretion of melatonin, a key hormone for falling asleep.  So, rather than racking up screen time just before bed, consider picking up a good book to let your melatonin get to work.
- Just Relax
Speaking of reading a good book, it’s critical to wind down before bedtime. While reading is one option, studies show music can profoundly impact sleep. One study found music made people feel better rested and prolonged their REM sleep.  Another study of young adults found music can facilitate longer deep sleep.  If music isn’t your thing, then consider taking a warm bath or shower. A review of 13 different studies found a warm bath or shower one to two hours before bed helped people fall asleep significantly faster. 
So, make sleep a top priority, and enjoy the benefits to your health and wellness in waking life.