Your Health Counts on Counting Sheep

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

By: Sylvia Mathews Burwell
Secretary of Health & Human Services (HHS)
Edited by Lawndale News

Are you staying healthy?

When we hear this, most of us think about our annual checkups, how many fruits and vegetables we eat, or whether we exercised enough for the day. But there’s an important tool we can’t forget: our pillows. When it comes to our health, sleeping habits can be just as important as diet and exercise.

Thanks to research from scientists from around the world, including our colleagues at the National Institutes of Health, we are learning just how crucial a good night’s rest is. Though new research has started to question how different our sleeping patterns today are from those of earlier societies, the advice from the public health community and sleep experts still strongly says that better sleep means better health.

You’ll probably spend about a third of your entire life sleeping. And while some people used to think that this time was spent with a quiet mind and rested body, the truth is that your body is hard at work during those hours. While you sleep, your brain is forming the neural pathways that help us learn, create memories and develop new insights. And your body is setting a pattern for the release of hormones essential to how you use energy and protect against infection. Too little sleep is enormously expensive. Chronic sleep loss or sleep disorders affect as many as 70 million Americans, costing our health care system an estimated $15.9 billion each year and reducing our economy’s productivity.

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

For you individually, a lack of sleep can hamper your performance, your mood and your health. It can slow down your reaction time and cloud your thinking, even if you cut back by just a single hour. We also know that people who chronically miss sleep are at higher risk of suffering depression. And researchers have linked less sleep with a higher risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and other medical conditions. It’s even been shown to make immunizations like your flu shot less effective. So starting tonight, follow some of these Do’s and Don’ts to get enough sleep to feel refreshed and restored:


  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule
  • Relax before bed
  • Create a good sleeping environment by keeping noises, bright lights, TVs or computers away from the bedroom.


  • Have caffeine, alcohol or large meals and beverages before bed
  • Take a nap after about 3 p.m.

If you’re still finding it tough to get a good night’s rest, talk to your doctor. And take a look at the information available from our National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health at You can find factsheets in English and Spanish and even take a quiz on your sleep IQ! Just don’t do it right before bed. Sleep tight, America!

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