A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Research shows a good night’s sleep offers a host of health benefits, are you getting enough shut-eye?

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

March is National Sleep Awareness Month, and more than 40% of Kentucky adults report getting fewer than seven hours of sleep a night, according to America’s Health Rankings.

Sleep experts advised people ages 18 to 60 need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night to be healthy. Losing sleep has been linked to increase rates of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.

Whether it is due to an increase in using technology or a shift from the typical 9-5 workday, around 50-70 million Americans suffer from sleep issues, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association. (NKyTribune File)

Dr. Ravi Johar, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare, explained developing a consistent bedtime routine is critical for a good night’s rest.

“That’s something that’s really important, just having a routine,” Johar emphasized. “Whether it’s, you know, brushing your teeth, changing into pajamas, doing some kind of activity before you go to sleep. Yoga, listening to music, reading, things of that sort, setting your alarm for the same time every day.”

He added it is also important to turn off laptops and phones a few hours before bed, because the blue light from screens suppresses release of the hormone melatonin, which the body uses to fall into a restful state of sleep.

Johar pointed out eating right before bed can trigger a cascade of events, which throw off circadian rhythm and metabolism.

“Avoid eating large meals before bedtime,” Johar recommended. “Those can cause a lot of restless sleep and problems.”

Johar urged people experiencing prolonged issues with sleep to make an appointment with their doctor.

“Sometimes there may be underlying medical problems that are making it difficult for you to sleep,” Johar pointed out. “The other thing that’s really important that people don’t realize is how much stress and
behavioral health issues can factor into their sleep.”

During the pandemic, while more people reported sleeping longer, sleep quality decreased, and bedtime routines became less structured. Research has shown lack of sleep may affect the risk and severity of COVID-19 infection, as well as vaccine response.

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