Skip to main content
Full Menu
Your Well-being

Sleep and your health

New York Teacher

Your well being generic icon
We live in the city that never sleeps. Work hours can stretch from early in the morning to grading papers late into the night. But the fact remains: Sleep isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. Adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night.

Many people don’t recognize how sleep affects their health: It improves learning, memory and insight. Lack of sleep slows down your thought processes and lowers your alertness and ability to concentrate.

Research shows sleep plays a role in consolidating new information, so if your sleep is cut short, it interferes with your ability to learn. Lack of sleep also slows reaction time, which can be very dangerous.

Did you know that driving while drowsy is as dangerous as drunken driving? Driving while sleepy is the equivalent of driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent — which is over the legal limit.

Lack of sleep also affects mood and mental health. When you haven’t had enough sleep, you may become irritable, angry and less able to cope with stress. Chronic sleepiness puts you at a greater risk for depression.

Consult your medical doctor if you feel you may be suffering from a medical condition such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy.

If sleepiness during the day and insomnia at night are problems for you, here are some tips to improve your sleep:

  • Avoid caffeine after noon. The effects of this stimulant found in coffee, tea, chocolate or cola can last 11 hours after consumption.
  • Make your bedroom a quiet, dark, restful and relaxing environment. Some people use a white noise machine and blackout shades on the windows. Don’t watch TV or read on electronic devices in bed: The light can affect your circadian rhythm and prevent sleep.
  • Establish a soothing pre-sleep routine. Take a bath in warm water, read a nonstressful book, practice relaxation exercises.
  • Go to sleep when you’re tired, allowing for seven to nine hours of rest.
  • Get enough natural light during the daytime.
  • Lighten up your evening meals, avoiding spicy foods or anything that causes indigestion.
  • Don’t drink too much fluid before bed, including alcohol, which may help you fall asleep, but will wake you up later in the night.
  • Exercise earlier in the day, not before bedtime.
  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule.

As you adopt these healthy habits, you should find your sleep improving.

See additional resources on sleep and your health.

Related Topics: Your Well-being