Sleep is critical to helping us function at our best. It helps repair damaged cells, regulate our metabolism, strengthen our memory and regulate our emotions, among other things. For optimal health, adults should get 7–9 hours of sleep a day. Lack of sleep can affect the immune system, causing you to be more prone to getting sick, as well as slowing down your recovery. Without sufficient sleep, people are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, stroke, obesity and diabetes. Lack of sleep also can cause you to be more irritable and accident-prone and reduces your ability to concentrate and deal with day-to-day life. Memory, decision-making and performance suffer, making life more difficult.
Society tends to disregard sleep’s importance, valuing and pushing us to spend more of each day awake and productive. But even if you go to bed in time to get adequate rest, sleep can be elusive. Our behaviors, habits and environment can distract us from sleeping well.
We want to build on current knowledge about how environmental factors affect sleep. We know that bright blue light from cell phones, tablets and televisions can severely disrupt sleep. Other factors do, too, such as sound, temperature and air quality. Our research will investigate the extent to which the indoor environment impacts sleep behaviors and quality of sleep. We want to identify practical solutions to improve sleep. Importantly, we want to develop interventions to help people at all ages, because people have different sleep requirements at different stages of life.