Sleep is an essential part of our lives and our overall health. Yet, recent studies have shown that one out of every three people in the US do not get enough restorative sleep each night.

We recently spoke to Meena Mehta, MD, a sleep medicine specialist at the Sleep Medicine clinic at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, about the importance of sleep and tips to get the most out of a good night’s sleep!


Q: A new study suggests that only 1 out of 3 people in the US do not get enough “restorative sleep.” How should we define “restorative sleep?”

MM: Restorative sleep is sleep in which our body and mind are able to relax and recharge and prepare ourselves for the next day. This is accomplished by the brain cycling through the different stages of sleep. The amount of time needed in each stage of sleep varies depending on various factors including age.

Q: Why is it important to get restorative sleep?

MM: Just as our muscles need rest after using them, our brain needs rest after being awake all day. Restorative sleep allows our body and mind to properly function the next day. Without restorative sleep, we may feel fatigued and our performance at work and home might not be reaching high performance levels.

Q: What can be the consequences of not receiving enough sleep?

MM: Not receiving enough restorative sleep has been associated with many adverse effects affecting all systems of the body. In addition to feeling exhausted, some examples include high blood pressure, memory problems, increased risk of heart disease and stomach ulcers, obesity, depression, and reduced immune function.

Q: What are some of the reasons we are not getting enough?

MM: There are many reasons why we may not get enough restorative sleep. These include factors affecting our sleep environment, our habits prior to bedtime, and co-morbid medical conditions including sleep disorders, and some of the medications we take.

Time lying in bed when not tired can also lead to an active mind or “busy brain.” Meditation and breathing exercises can help.

Q: Do you have any tips or suggestions on how we can get more sleep?

MM: The most important thing we can do is to adopt good sleep hygiene practices. These include setting a relaxing and consistent night-time routine that helps promote sleep, keeping the room dark and cool, avoiding excessive caffeine, getting plenty of exercise, fresh air and sunlight during the day, refraining from eating right before bed, and turning off electronic devices.

You may also want to speak to your doctor to determine if any of your conditions or medications could be affecting your sleep.

Q: Is it possible to “bank” our sleep or “catch up” on sleep we’ve missed?

MM: A lot of people try to catch up on sleep on the weekends to help pay off their sleep debt. A better approach is to work on reducing that debt during the week. Even adding 30 extra minutes every day of additional sleep will help you gain the benefits of a good night’s sleep.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

MM: Sleep is just as important as being awake. Getting sleep that is restorative is even more important and treating it as an essential part of our health can have positive health outcomes for years to come. If you are concerned about if you are achieving restorative sleep, speak your health care provider today.

To learn more about sleep and sleep medicine, visit

Tufts Medicine Formerly Wellforce