The importance of sleep

Source: Humana Health Link

Here’s why sleep really matterzzz

When your schedule is packed and you’re trying hard to fit it all in, sleep is probably the first place you cut corners. After all, losing a few hours of sleep now and then can’t make any difference. Right?

Not exactly. Sleep is a lot more important than it may appear. It’s a restorative process that is vital to your health. Not getting enough of it, or getting poor quality sleep, affects your body and mind. If you’re working toward a healthier lifestyle, getting enough good quality sleep is as important as exercise and a healthy diet.

Why is sleep so important?

Scientists don’t entirely understand why we experience health problems related to sleep loss. Changes in the levels of hormones the body releases during sleep could play a part, as could the simple strain of staying awake. Upsetting the strong drive for sleep from our own internal clocks, loss of the deepest stages of our sleep and other factors may all play a role.1

How much sleep do I need?
Age Hours2
Newborns (0-3 months) 14-17
Infants (4-11 months) 12-15
Toddlers (1-2 years) 11-14
Preschoolers (3-5) 10-13
School age children (6-13) 10-11
Teens (14-17) 8-10
Young adults & adults (18-64) 7-9
Older adults (65+) 7-8

Short-term consequences

When you’ve lost sleep, you know it the next day. But there’s more to it than that draggy feeling. Did you know that losing as little as one-and-a-half hours of nighttime sleep for just one night can reduce your alertness the next day by as much as 32%? It also impacts your ability to think and to process information. In addition, excessive sleepiness more than doubles the risk of occupational injury. And according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving is responsible for at least 100,000 accidents, 71,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities every year.3

Long-term consequences

Chronic sleep deprivation can have negative effects on your mental and physical well-being.

Effects on mental health:

  • Lower stress threshold. Even routine activities such as stopping at the grocery can seem like overwhelming tasks.
  • Impaired memory. Deep sleep promotes the formation of connections between cells in your brain. When those connections aren’t made, it can affect memory.
  • Trouble concentrating. It’s hard to stay alert and focused.
  • Less optimism and sociability. Long-term sleep loss tends to make us less hopeful and less friendly.
  • Impaired creativity and innovation. Sleep deprivation may have a particular effect on thinking processes that rely on our experience of emotions.1


Effects on physical health:

  • Higher resting blood pressure. Even half-a-night of lost sleep can increase blood pressure in people with a tendency toward high blood pressure.
  • Increased appetite. Acute sleep loss changes the way your brain processes the pleasure response and can increase a person’s desire to eat. Researchers believe that chronic sleep deprivation may be linked to rising levels of obesity.
  • A higher risk of heart attacks. Sleep deprivation is one of several factors that can increase risk of heart attacks.1


Humana considers CPAP machines for treating sleep apnea to be durable medical equipment. They are covered as part of your plan when you have a diagnosis of sleep apnea and pre-authorization.

Sleep apnea: A widespread cause of poor sleep

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. It raises your risk for stroke, obesity, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, and high blood pressure.4 There are several types of sleep apnea, but the most common is obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. Anyone may develop it, but it is most frequently seen in middle-aged and older adults, as well as in people who are overweight.

Symptoms may include daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, your partner observing episodes when you stop breathing during sleep, morning headaches, difficulty concentrating during the day, and depression or irritability.

OSA occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax too much to allow normal breathing. Your airway narrows or closes as you inhale, which may lower the level of oxygen in your blood. Your brain senses this impaired breathing and briefly rouses you from sleep so that you can reopen your airway. This awakening is usually so brief that you don’t remember it.

If you have OSA, treatment may involve continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP. A CPAP machine is a device with a facemask attached to a small pump. The pressure of the air breathed is continuous, constant and a little greater than that of the surrounding air, which is just enough to keep your upper airway passages open. The CPAP also comes in a non-mask version with tubes that fit over the nostrils.4

Make sleep a healthy priority

If you want to get more sleep, or better quality sleep, you need to make sleep a priority. Schedule it like any other daily activity. Don’t make it the thing you do only after everything else is done.2 It’s just too important!

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