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Sleep: facts, stats and tips to help you get a better night’s sleep

A good night's sleep is very important for health.

It’s just as important as eating healthily and exercising. Unfortunately, not everyone finds it as easy to get the right amount of the right type of sleep.

Here are a few tips to help you get better sleep as part of staying healthier.

Aetna Sleep Infographic


Most people know that a lack of sleep will negatively affect their mood, leaving them lethargic, uninspired and often stressed. This can lead to being unorganised, reaching for comfort foods and a reliance on stimulants such as caffeine.

Getting the right amount of sleep is an essential part of the health and wellness trifecta:

  • Diet - what we put in our bodies
  • Exercise - how we treat our bodies
  • Sleep - how we recharge our bodies

Most healthy adults need 7-9 hours of good-quality sleep a night.

In 1942, eight hours was the global average1

In 2018, no country in the world achieves this.2

Adequate sleep is essential for:

  • Fighting infection
  • Supporting the metabolism of blood sugar to prevent diabetes
  • Performing well mentally
  • Behavioural self-regulation – particularly in children
  • Working effectively and safely

Sleep quality

What is a good’s night’s sleep? Because quantity isn’t quality.

Good quality sleep is:

  • 7-9 hours per night, every night
  • Falling asleep within 15-20 minutes of getting into bed
  • Getting through 4-6 ‘sleep cycles’ per night:

◦   Stage 1: light sleep
◦   Stage 2: brain starts to rest, body prepares for deep sleep
◦   Stage 3: deep sleep type 1
◦   Stage 4: deep sleep type 2
◦   Stage 5: REM sleep

  • 3-5 REM (rapid eye movement) sleep cycles

Why REM?

  • REM sleep is the restorative part of sleep
  • It plays an important role in learning and memory function

Lack of sleep

Short-term effects

Sleepiness is associated with vision problems (tunnel vision, double vision, and dimness.) The longer you’re awake, the more visual errors you'll encounter, and the more likely you are to experience hallucinations.[3]

20% of the serious injuries that result from car accidents can be associated with driver sleepiness.[4]

Long-term effects

Long-term sleep deprivation can:

  • Lead to
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • IBS
  • Gastrointestinal diseases5
  • Cause weight gain and increased risk of obesity.6
  • Disrupt your immune system7 [Potentially include: “Even losing one night of sleep can impede your body's natural defenses against microorganisms.”8]

Insomnia has been linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke9

Migraines10 are worse and more frequent for people that regularly sleep shorter number of hours

Number of people with a chronic sleep disorder that impacts daily functioning and health11:

  • Up to 70 million in the US
  • Up to 45 million in Europe

Sleeping five or fewer hours per night can increase your mortality risk by as much as 15%12

18 tips for a better night’s sleep

1.      Get regular exercise, but not right before bedtime
2.      Avoid napping during the day
3.      Minimise the use of devices with bright artificial light before bedtime
4.      Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows!
5.      Limit caffeine and alcohol intake
6.      Avoid caffeine after noon
7.      Avoid nicotine, another stimulant, which can affect sleep quality
8.      Avoid exercise less than three hours before bed
9.      Avoid large meals less than four hours before bed
10.    Check medications for sleep-related side effects, especially:

◦    a. pain relievers with caffeine
◦    b. decongestants
◦    c. steroids
◦    d. beta-blockers

11.  Stick to a sleep routine (that includes weekends)
12.  For children, routine is key. Bathe, book reading, and bedtime at the same time each night
13.  Get 30 minutes of sun exposure, preferably with exercise, daily
14.  Exercise 30-60 minutes most days
15.  Keep your bedroom dark, cool and quiet
16.  Avoid screen use 1 hour before bed
17.  Avoid napping after 3pm
18.  Try a sleep app which can do everything from tracking your sleep patterns to helping you to relax so you can fall asleep.

Still not sleeping?

Are you worried about your sleep patterns and their effect on your health? You can speak to your GP or family doctor who can treat common sleep disorders, including:

  • Insomnia
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Narcolepsy
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder

At Aetna International, we help people develop healthier habits as part of their international private medical insurance plan membership. Why not call one of our sales consultants today and we can support you with your health and wellness needs.

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