get a good night’s sleep on world sleep day

Courtney Takabayashi
March 17, 2023

We all know that getting a good night’s sleep is important. Just like healthy eating and keeping active, sleep affects our overall health and well-being. While the National Sleep Foundation recommends an average of seven to nine hours of sleep per night for adults, a new study found that Hawaii had one of the lowest proportion of people meeting this recommendation.

In observance of World Sleep Day, we asked Straub Medical Center pulmonologist and board-certified sleep specialist, Ronson Sato, M.D., some questions about sleep.

How much is sleep does the average person need?
While surveys suggest most people need seven to eight hours of sleep to feel their best, I usually don’t recommend the same amount of time for everyone. Instead, I encourage individuals to determine what makes them feel their best. For example, if a person feels refreshed and rejuvenated all day after sleeping six hours, that’s great! But if someone gets six hours of sleep and suffers from daytime sleepiness, memory loss, or problems concentrating, then I'd recommend more sleep.

What are the benefits of getting enough sleep?
Benefits of enough sleep include improved quality of life and health. The most noticeable response to getting adequate, good-quality sleep include waking refreshed and having more energy. However, a lot of people don’t make that connection between sleep and well-being. Sleep helps bolster immunity and recovery, improves cognitive function and mood, and may even lengthen life.

What are the dangers of not getting enough sleep? 
Just as sleep can improve health and longevity, poor quality or insufficient sleep can negatively affect concentration, mood, and libido, and increase the risk of accidents, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

What are some signs of a sleep disorder?
There are various sleep disorders that can present with abnormal breathing, movements, or behavior during sleep. The challenge of identifying a sleep disorder is that the person sleeping isn’t aware of what’s happening. Daytime fatigue or sleepiness may be experienced, but isn’t specific for disrupted quality. More specific symptoms of an underlying sleep disorder can include snoring, increased breathing effort, gasping, difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, waking to urinate, morning headaches, memory loss, or reduced libido.

What should I do if I think I have a sleep disorder?
If you or your bed partner are concerned about an underlying sleep disorder, talk to your doctor. You may benefit from a consultation with a sleep specialist or participating in a sleep study.

What are some tips for getting a good night’s sleep?

  • Provide sufficient sleep time for your needs.
  • Reinforce a regular sleep schedule.
  • Create a comfortable sleep environment.
  • Avoid using electronics before bedtime, including watching television or using computers, smart phones, tablets, etc.
  • Avoid looking at the time when having difficulty sleeping.
  • Minimize naps.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol before bedtime.

Anything else you’d like to share?
Sleep is crucial to maximize our abilities, activities, and outlook. Just as people prioritize diet and exercise, sleep is a facet of our health that should be valued and optimized. If you have questions or concerns about poor sleep, don't be afraid to bring it up with your primary care provider. Avoid taking sleeping aids unless evaluated and recommended by your doctor. Sleeping aids rarely help in the long term and can sometimes worsen underlying sleep problems or contribute to future difficulties. Just as there are various reasons for poor sleep, there are many effective remedies that can help improve it. There can be various reasons for poor sleep so determining the cause is vital in providing the most effective treatment.

Sleep stories to help you fall asleep
While bedtime stories play an important part of a child’s development by helping to lower stress, enhance language and communication skills, and foster the love of reading, bedtime stories are beneficial for adults, too.

Yale School of Medicine and medical director of Yale Center for Sleep Medicine, Christine Won, M.D., says that bedtime stories can detract the mind from self-sabotaging thoughts and worries. “This allows the body’s adrenaline to come down so the brain can transition into the sleep state,” she says. “A story, more so than music or background noises, is more likely to force the stubborn mind’s attention away from whatever is causing emotional distress.”

Enjoy HMSA employees reading bedtime stories including The Emperor’s New Clothes, Winnie the Pooh, and The Princess and the Pea to help you relax before bed.

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