The Science of Sleep

Abraham Maslow, an American Psychologist, is best known for his Theory of Human Motivation (1943).  Maslow discussed how people have a hierarchy of needs.  Although there has been criticism of his theory, the first level (Physiological) is agreeable in that everyone needs to breath, eat, have water and sleep to stay alive. These basic needs are among the first things we need to have healthy development.

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Sleep is one of the basic needs we need for health, yet sleep is often times an overlooked necessity. Today, factors such as work schedules and technology keep people awake for longer hours during the day. Our busy lives do not always grant time for sleep, and popular sayings such as “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” have become our mantra. You may be that person who during the day feels tired and grabs an extra cup of coffee, or you may eat something sweet. However, the simple solution would be to get more sleep each night.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, yet the average adult sleeps less than that.

“It is estimated that 50 to 70 million Americans chronically suffer from a disorder of sleep and wakefulness, hindering daily functioning and adversely affecting their health and longevity” (Institute of Medicine, 2006). Although many people suffer from sleep disorders, many simply suffer from inadequate quality and quantity of sleep.

Insufficient sleep has been positively correlated with hypertension, diabetes, depression, obesity, cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity (Institute of Medicine, 2006). Moreover, sleep is vital for good health and well-being.

One suggestion for getting better shuteye is to exercise. Exercise can reduce stress, and improve the quality of your sleep. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise can help, but more vigorous exercise is best. Check out the National Sleep Foundation for more information.


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More Sleep Hygiene Tips according to the CDC:

  • Go to bed at the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning.

  • Avoid large meals before bedtime.

  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime.

  • Avoid nicotine.


Alternative therapies for better sleep according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health:

  • Meditation

  • Yoga

  • Massage therapy

  • Melatonin


If you do use complementary and alternative approaches, tell your health care provider. This will help ensure your health is coordinated and safe.

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