Experts recommend getting 7 to nine 9 of sleep per night. But did you know the average American adult only sleeps 7 hours 40 minutes? Over one-third get 7 hours or less and around 12 percent get less than 5 hours per night.  You probably know that sleep is important for having energy throughout the day, but sleep impacts almost every aspect of your life from your food choices to your long-term health.


In the short term, getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night is associated with:

  • Mood changes. Inadequate sleep is directly related to worsening symptoms of depression and anxiety. It also affects mood even outside of mental health disorders.
  • Work performance. Lack of sleep is associated with absenteeism, decreased subjective measures of both self-evaluated and supervisor evaluated performance, lower attention span and focus, reduced alertness, and less motivation.
  • Increased food cravings. Your body seeks quick energy, which is often in the form of refined carbohydrates.
  • Shifts in hormones affecting food choices. When you don’t sleep enough, production of your hunger hormone (ghrelin) increases and your fullness hormone (leptin) decreases, making you feel more hungry and less satisfied (not a great combination!).
  • Increased snacking. One study showed that lack of sleep was associated with increased snack intake of highly processed snacks, which makes sense since your body is seeking quick energy and comfort.
  • Blood sugar imbalances. Inadequate sleep can wreak havoc on your blood sugar by lowering your insulin sensitivity and increasing cortisol levels, which can also affect blood sugar. This may also contribute to carb cravings.
  • Poor immune function. While one night of bad sleep isn’t going to make you sick, chronic sleep deprivation decreases your immune function, and you’re more likely to get sick with colds, the flu, and other communicable illnesses.



Longer-term, chronic sleep deprivation also leads to many health concerns, including:

  • Slower metabolism. Sleeping fewer than 5.6 hours per night is associated with a slower metabolism.
  • Chronic disease risk. Regular lack of sleep is associated with higher risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Cognitive decline. Studies show that people who don’t sleep enough perform worse on memory tests and have a higher risk for cognitive decline as they age.


Have we convinced you that you need to prioritize sleep yet? If you’re not regularly getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep most nights, below are our top tips to help you get there:

  • Committing to a consistent bedtime. Aim to be in bed at least 7 to 8 hours before you need to wake up. If you have trouble falling asleep, you may need to allow for more time in bed.
  • Shut down the technology. Blue light from screens (phones, TV, and computers) disrupts sleep by lowering melatonin production, and can affect both falling asleep and staying asleep. Turn off screens 30 to 60 minutes before you want to be asleep.
  • Evaluate your pre-sleep routine. Consider ways you can support sleep with a wind-down routine. This may include doing calming activities like reading, journaling, taking a warm bath, or drinking a cup of herbal tea.
  • Stay active during the day. Movement can promote both falling asleep faster and better quality sleep.
  • Limit stress-inducing activities at night. As much as you can, try not to do things that may increase anxiety or stress in the hour or two before bed, therefore disrupting sleep.
  • Start your day with sunshine. Morning sunshine supports a natural circadian rhythm and can actually promote better nighttime sleep. Even on cloudy days, getting outside for fresh air and natural light can help you improve your sleep patterns.


You don’t need to do all of these things to get a good night’s sleep. Start with the one that fits best into your life and build from there (if needed).


Sarah Gold Anzlovar, MS, RDN, LDN is a registered dietitian, certified intuitive eating counselor, and the owner of Sarah Gold Nutrition, a virtual private practice and nutrition communications consulting business in the suburbs of Boston. She empowers busy women to ditch diets and learn to eat to feel their best without the stress.

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