Just like the song, Summertime by Ella Fitzgerald, says, “It’s summertime, and the livin’ is easy,” but are summer’s long sunsets interfering with your sleep?

The way you feel while you’re awake partially depends on your sleep habits. Sleep helps your brain work properly, and studies show that sleep deficiency alters activity in parts of your brain. Poor sleep habits and long-term sleep loss will affect your well-being: physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I’m sure all of us have felt the effects of sleep loss. It can interfere with every aspect of our lives: work, school, driving, social functioning. As a recent study has found, lack of sleep increases the chances of some high-risk and dangerous health conditions. This study found that irregular sleep patterns can put a person at risk for metabolic disorders, including:

  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol
  • Hypertension
  • High blood pressure

The amount of sleep you need each day will change over the course of your life, but sleep deficiency is a common public health problem in the United States for people of all ages. Adults age 18 years and older need seven to eight hours of sleep. Teenagers need an average of one to two more hours of sleep each night compared to adults.

One common myth is that people can learn to get by on little sleep with no adverse effects, but after several nights of losing sleep–even a loss of just 1-2 hours per night–your ability to function suffers severely.  It reacts as if you haven’t slept at all.

Another myth is that you can make up for lost sleep with naps. They may provide a short-term boost in alertness and performance, but napping doesn’t provide all of the other benefits of night-time sleep.

If you are worried about whether you are getting enough sleep, consider starting a sleep diary. Write down when you go to bed, how much sleep you get each night, how alert and rested you feel in the morning, and how tired you feel throughout the day. Show your results to your doctor and discuss ways you can improve your sleep.

Sleeping is a basic human need, like eating, drinking, and breathing. Enjoy these long summer nights, but make sure you are getting enough quality sleep at the right times.