Are you getting enough sleep? A study claims many people aren't.

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - How are you feeling right now? Did you get a good night's sleep?

It's a fact that sleep is one of the most important things to maintaining good health, yet a newly released report states that most people don't get enough sleep. Are you among them?

Dr. Doug Kirsch, who is the medical director at Carolinas HealthCare Sleep Medicine in Charlotte, is one of the leading sleep experts in the country.   He's also president-elect of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

"When we don't get enough sleep, a number of things happen.  We start being less productive.  We start being able to focus less," Kirsch said. "And then again, we start falling asleep during activities that we shouldn't. So there's the immediate consequences of not getting enough sleep, and then there's the long term consequences. So we tend to have an increased risk of mood disorders. We tend to have an increased risk of blood pressure problems. And so there is an increasing risk of death in the long term, of not getting enough sleep."

So how much sleep should you be getting each night? Here are newly released guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation:

  • Six to 13 years:  9-11 hours
  • 14-17 years:  8-10 hours
  • 18-25 years:  7-9 hours
  • 26-64 years:  7-9 hours
  • 65 + years:  7-8 hours

There are also discrepancies in sleep issues when it comes to gender. Men and women sleep differently. When asked whether who has more trouble sleeping, Dr. Kirsch said "both."

"So women are more likely to have symptoms of insomnia, and they're more likely to have symptoms of restless legs," Kirsch said. "Men are more likely to have sleep apnea.  So both genders can have sleep problems, they're just not necessarily the same sleep problems."

According to the study, women typically need around 20 more minutes of sleep every night compared to men because they are "using their brains more during the day." And the more you use your brain, the more rest it needs!

Now the question is, just how do we get the best sleep?  Dr. Kirsch says the biggest factor in getting good sleep at night is the amount of light before you go to bed.

"One of the things that people underestimate is the impact of light on sleep. And so one of the things I try to advise most of my patients to do is to limit the amount of light they're getting in that last hour before they go to sleep," Kirsch said. "So the hope is to eliminate the amount of light at nighttime.  Try not to fall asleep with the TV on.  Try to get yourself ready for bed.  Watch the TV downstairs, but get into bed into a room that's cool and dark and comfortable.  Those are the key aspects, but the dark piece is probably the most important."

Here are some top sleep recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule,even on weekends.
  • Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual.
  • Exercise daily.
  • Evaluate your bedroom to ensure ideal temperature, sound and light.
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Beware of hidden sleep stealers, like alcohol and caffeine.
  • Turn off electronics before bed.

The bottom line here is you need to make sleep a priority and you need to get to bed earlier!

According to the National Sleep Foundation, if you are experiencing symptoms such as sleepiness during the day or when you expect to be awake and alert, snoring, prolonged insomnia or other symptoms that prevent you from sleeping well, talk to your doctor!

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