Doctor’s Tip: The importance of 7-8 hours of good sleep a night for optimal health |

Doctor’s Tip: The importance of 7-8 hours of good sleep a night for optimal health

Dr. Greg Feinsinger

Many studies show that for physical and mental health adults should get seven to eight hours of good sleep at night and children, including teenagers, about 10 hours.

According to the CDC, one-third of Americans don’t get enough sleep, due to factors such as the following:

1. Many people stay up too late and/or get up too early because they work too hard;

2. We get stimulated in the evening by TV, computer and smart phone screens and other sources of bright light;

3. Alcohol, tobacco and caffeine interfere with sleep;

4. Depression and anxiety cause sleep problems;

5. Older men with prostate trouble often have to get up several times at night to urinate;

5. Sleep apnea, common in people who snore and people who live at altitude, causes sleep problems.

Inadequate sleep can lead to poor job or school performance, auto accidents, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes, diabetes (due to increased levels of stress hormones such as cortisol), obesity, irritability and depression. If you sleep less than seven hours one night you can’t make up for it by sleeping extra-long the next night.

Following are some tips for good sleep hygiene:

  • Your bedroom should be used only for sleep and sex, and should be quiet, cool and completely dark.
  • Go to bed at a reasonable hour and at about the same time every night. Plan on sleeping seven-eight hours, and get in the habit of always getting up at the same time in the morning no matter how you slept.
  • Don’t eat within three hours of bedtime.
  • If you’re having sleep problems, avoid caffeine — some of the caffeine from even one cup of coffee in the morning is still in your system when you go to bed at night.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, but because exercise is a stimulant, avoid it in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Alcohol helps people fall asleep, but within a few hours the “rebound effect” as it’s wearing off awakens them. So, for good sleep hygiene avoid alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime, and stick to the recommended maximum of one drink a day for women and two for men — a drink being defined as 4 oz. of wine, 12 oz. of 3.2% beer; or 1 oz. of hard alcohol.
  • Avoid TV, computer and smart phone screens; and other sources of bright light for at least one hour before bedtime. Do something such as read, with a dim light, which helps stimulate the sleep hormone melatonin. In order to maintain melatonin levels, avoid bright lights the rest of the night, until morning. Get a dimmer for your bathroom lights to avoid bright lights if your brush your teeth before bed or if you get up to go to the bathroom during the night.
  • If you just can’t sleep, don’t lie there watching the clock; get up and read with a dim light until you feel sleepy.
  • If you have depression or anxiety, discuss treatment with your PCP or a psychologist or psychiatrist.
  • If you are getting up at night to urinate, avoid all fluids after about 7 p.m., and if the problem doesn’t resolve talk to your PCP or a urologist about treatment options.
  • Consider an overnight oximetry to screen for sleep apnea, especially if you snore.
  • Learn how to meditate.

Sleep medications such as zolpidem (Ambien) are useful for occasional sleep problems, but can have side effects, and if taken frequently are habit-forming. Sedating anti-depressants such as mirtazapine (taken at bedtime) and trazodone (taken an hour before bedtime) — taken every night if needed — are helpful for many people and are not addictive.

Natural sleep remedies include: 1. Two kiwi fruit eaten one hour before bedtime; 2. marijuana gummies with 5 mg. of THC, dissolved in your mouth one hour before bedtime — can be purchased at any local marijuana store without a prescription.

Dr. Feinsinger is a retired family physician with special interest in disease prevention and reversal through nutrition. Free services through Center For Prevention and The People’s Clinic include: one-hour consultations, shop-with-a-doc at Carbondale City Market, and cooking classes. Call 970-379-5718 for appointment, or email

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