bed zzzz Most of us are built for a cycle of 16 hours awake and 8 hours asleep. Some people need a bit more sleep, some people a bit less, experts say.

But for everyone, the ability to sleep soundly and wake refreshed is essential for good physical and mental health — as well as for safety and productivity.

One study found that losing 90 minutes of sleep reduces daytime alertness by nearly one-third. “Think about how important alertness is to safety and productivity,” said NP Gayle Rundus, from the Health Center at Warrior Coal. “If you’re getting only six and a half hours of quality sleep or less, you’ve already lost a third of your alertness, and you simply can’t afford it.”

For a good night’s sleep The National Sleep Foundation recommends:

  • Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy or spicy meals in the two to three hours before bedtime.
  • Practice a relaxing bedtime routine, away from bright lights and electronics (TV and computer screens), in the hour before bed.
  • Create the right conditions for sleep: a cool, completely dark and quiet room with a comfortable bed.

While you’re sleeping…

  • Your brain builds new pathways to help you learn and remember information.
  • Your immune system becomes more efficient at fighting off disease and illness.
  • Your blood pressure and heart rate decrease. In this more relaxed state, your heart and circulatory system go into repair mode.
  • You burn fat and lose weight. Your body continues to use calories. Growth hormone boosts muscle mass and tells your fat cells to release energy.
  • The discs in your spine recover from the weight of standing.
  • Collagen and skin cell production increase. (Yes, there really is such a thing as beauty sleep!)

If you experience sleep problems that last more than a few weeks, see your Health Coach. Good health requires good sleep.