According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 35% of American adults do not get enough sleep, with the majority of Americans clocking less than seven hours of sleep each night.

In addition to the health problems, both physical and emotional, that stem from chronic sleeplessness, there is also an enormous economic cost to this epidemic. In the United States, individuals suffering from a lack of sleep spend more than $66 billion a year on machines and medications to deal with their sleep issues. And, according to some estimates, the loss of productivity — and the number of accidents — caused by this epidemic costs more than $400 billion annually.

Studies have shown that a lack of sleep causes an increase in rates of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and even cancer. Further, anxiety and depression are both exacerbated by the lack of a proper night’s sleep.

Sleep consists of a series of cycles. The first stage is simply falling asleep. In the second stage, our brain remains active, and goes through the process of deciding which memories to store from the day’s activities. It is interesting to note that since sleep reinforces memories, soldiers are advised not to go directly to bed if they have just returned from a disturbing mission. Similarly, if immediately before bed a person watches a disturbing movie, reads a disturbing book, or hears bad news, it would be inadvisable for them to go directly to sleep, even if they were tired. The third and fourth stages of sleep, known as deep sleep, are when the body engages more intensely in the physiological repair of any damage or injury to the body. Finally, there is REM sleep, where we experience dreams.

Each person needs a certain amount of sleep in order to remain healthy. Staying up late, whether to watch TV or to do work, can wreak havoc on the following day’s productivity. An underslept person is like an undercooked food; just as certain foods need enough time to cook properly, we need uninterrupted sleep cycles to be able to think properly. Forcing ourselves to get less sleep than we actually need, like undercooking food, will lead to a less then optimal product.

How to ensure a good night’s sleep? One of the best things we can do for ourselves is to turn off all electronic devices, including cell phones, televisions, and computers, early in the evening. By avoiding the extra stimulation these devices provide, and allowing our bodies to gradually relax, we prepare our minds and our bodies for sleep in a natural way, and allow ourselves to get the amount — and the quality — of sleep we truly need. The immense benefit that derives from this simple advice cannot be overstated. Making this change will result in a noticeable boost in your emotional and physical health.

Beacon of LIFE, in Oceanport, NJ, is a government-approved PACE program created to provide seniors, their family, caregivers and professional health care providers the flexibility to meet their health care needs while continuing to live in their community.

Beacon of LIFE maintains an interdisciplinary team of professionals who give each client the coordinated care they need. Our staff specialize in working with older people, and work with each client and their family to develop the most effective plan of care.

Our care and services allow people who would otherwise need to live in a nursing home to live where they want — in their own communities, in their own homes.

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