Insufficient sleep can leave us feeling tired and groggy. However, the problems do not end there. Overwhelming research has linked inadequate sleep to a bevy of health issues: including cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression, diabetes and even sexual dysfunction. To protect yourself from dangerous health risks, learn how to get more shut-eye.

How Much Sleep Do I Really Need?

Insufficient sleep has become so commonplace, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have labeled it a public health epidemic. For decades, health experts recommended that healthy adults get at least seven hours of sleep. With that said, the National Sleep Foundation recently altered its recommendations to reflect new guidelines based on an individual’s age.

Age                                                      Required Hours of Sleep

Seniors (65+)                                                          7-8 hours

Adults (26-24)                                                        7-9 hours

Young Adults (18-25)                                           7-9 hours

Teenagers (14-17)                                                8-10 hours

Children (6-14)                                                     9-11 hours

Preschool Children (3-5)                                    10-13 hours

Toddlers (1-2 years)                                            11-14 hours

Infants (4-11 months)                                         12-15 hours

New Born Babies (0-3 months)                         14-17 hours

Understanding the Risks

Countless studies have drawn an undeniable link between insufficient sleep and deadly medical problems. Poor sleep has also been shown to encourage premature aging, while also reducing cognitive function. Busy schedules can make it difficult for many of usto get the recommended amount of sleep. At the same time, countless Americans suffer from insomnia related to underlying medical issues and specific lifestyle choices.

Making Sleep a Top Priority

To improve sleep quality, the National Sleep Foundation has recommended the following strategies for improved sleep hygiene:

    1. Do not eat within three hours of bedtime.
    2. Do not drink alcohol prior to sleeping.
    3. Do not consume nicotine, caffeine and stimulants that diminish sleep quality.
    4. Establish a consistent, soothing bedtime routine.
    5. Get up and go to bed at the same times every day, even on the weekends.
    6.  Establish an exercise routine.

Avoiding Artificial Light

Modern technology has made life easier than ever. At the same time, it has played an important role in the country’s widespread sleep problems. Because they emit light waves which can disrupt melatonin levels, tablets, laptops, smartphones and televisions can disturb sleep quality. Be sure to avoid these devices at least an hour before bedtime to give yourself the best possible chance at a good night’s sleep.

The Dangers of Sleep Apnea

Many people owe their sleep problems to undiagnosed sleep apnea. If you snore, experience daytime grogginess, headaches or wake frequently during the night, visit your doctor. With treatment, you can put an end to your sleep problems and enjoy higher energy levels and a reduced risk of disease.