Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

Americans sleep on average five to six hours per night. The average American today works long hours; lack of sleep can be harmful to the body resulting in high levels of stress. Lack of sleep can lead to, or continue to, produce side effects common with sleeping disorders. Under most circumstances, inadequate sleep can lead to headaches, dizziness, reduced mental alertness, and lack of motivation (American Sleep Association, 2017). A deep restful sleep can promote physical health, longevity, and emotional well-being (Harvard, 2007). In results of a good night’s sleep you feel better, your decisions are more accurate, and it gives you the ability to learn and retain more information (Harvard, n.d.)

There are two phases of sleep: Rapid-eye-movement (REM) and non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM). The first phase of sleep is NREM, in this phase brain activity is slow, and the five senses shut down. The NREM phase transitions through four stages and sleep gets progressively deeper making it nearly impossible to wake an individual from sleep. After moving through all four stages of sleep the brain switches into REM. During REM sleep muscles are temporarily paralyzed, and physiological functions may be more active. REM sleep is also the stage of sleep most associated with dreaming. Changes may occur in brain wave activity, heart rate, body temperature, and other physiological functions depending on the phase of sleep (Harvard, 2007).

Adequate sleep is important for good mental and physical health. Studies have shown that inadequate sleep has been linked to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and mood disorder (NIH, n.d.). It is believed that most people need at least eight hours of sleep, but quality of sleep is just as important as quantity. Poor quality sleep reduces efficiency and productivity which can be felt in many ways during our daily lives (American Sleep Association, 2017).


Good quality sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle. Getting adequate sleep is essential for learning, and improving memory function. Exercising in the morning or in the middle of the day can help improve sleep patterns. Effective time management can also help achieve restful sleep. If you can’t seem to “turn your mind off,” reading, writing, and listening to music may be helpful in relaxing your mind. Avoiding caffeine in the afternoon can also help you relax before bedtime. Beginning a consistent sleep schedule may take some time, but it could be helpful to try creating a schedule with your daily task and activities to help assist you with getting everything done in time for a restful sleep.


Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School (2017). The Characteristics of Sleep Web. 16 Feb. 2017. <>.


American Sleep Association (n.d.) Inadequate Sleep Hygiene. Web. 16 Feb. 2017. <>.


National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (n.d.) How does inadequate sleep affect health? Web. 16 Feb. 2017. <>.


Harvard Medical School (n.d.) Healthy Sleep: Consequences of Insufficient Sleep Web. 16 Feb. 2017. <>.


Assistant Professor, Kinesiology and Health Studies department