RWJUH Comprehensive Sleep Disorders Center Medical Director Explains Importance of Sleep, How to Get Quality Rest

National Sleep Awareness Week is March 5-11

Monday, March 04, 2013

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Regularly getting four hours or less of sleep isn’t enough rest for most people, but sacrificing sleep to get it all done appears to be the new cultural norm. As National Sleep Awareness Week approaches, Anays M. Sotolongo, M.D., medical director of the Comprehensive Sleep Disorders Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH), encourages broader understanding and acceptance of the importance of sleep.
“I often hear ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead,’ but the truth is sleep is important now,” Sotolongo says. “There are consequences to not getting enough rest, including poor concentration, weight gain and poor libido.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. Notably, insufficient sleep is associated with the onset of these diseases and also poses important implications for their management and outcome.
Moreover, insufficient sleep is responsible for motor vehicle and machinery-related crashes, causing substantial injury and disability each year, the CDC also reports.
Sotolongo says that while adequate sleep varies from individual to individual, the average adult should get between seven and eight and a half hours of slumber daily. “Assess yourself: go to bed at the same time every night for a few days and allow yourself to wake naturally (without an alarm),” Sotolongo suggests. “Start on a Friday night so you’re not stressed out about it, and by Monday – the third day - you should have an accurate estimate. Then if you need more or less sleep, you can adjust your bedtime accordingly.”
Quality sleep is as important as the number of hours. “Electronics can sabotage sleep. The light that’s coming from your cell phone or tablet or television is keeping you alert,” Sotolongo explains. “Turn the gadgets off or leave them in another room.”
Establishing a relaxing bedtime ritual also will help improve quality of sleep, she adds. “Allow yourself about an hour of downtime before you hop into bed,” Sotolongo recommends. “Take a warm shower or bath then let your body temperature cool off. Meditate, listen to music or read. The point is to let all of your anxiety from the day go.”
Those who consistently struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep or those who have trouble functioning due to insufficient sleep should seek medical attention, Sotolongo says.
Reporters interested in arranging an interview with Anays M. Sotolongo, M.D., should contact RWJUH's Peter Haigney, Public Relations Director, or Zenaida Mendez, Public Relations Manager, at (732) 937-8521.

About Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) is a 600-bed academic medical center and the principal hospital of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J.

RWJUH is an innovative leader in advancing state-of-the-art care. Its Centers of Excellence include cardiovascular care, from minimally invasive heart surgery to transplantation; cancer care; and women’s and children’s care, including The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital (

The hospital is a Level I Trauma Center and serves as a national resource in its ground-breaking approaches to emergency preparedness.

RWJUH has earned significant national recognition for clinical quality and patient safety. It ranks among “America’s Best Hospitals,” according to U.S.News & World Report’s 2012 survey; it is the sixth consecutive year that RWJUH has achieved this prestigious ranking. Also in 2012, U.S.News & World Report ranked BMSCH among the nation’s “Best Children’s Hospitals.” The American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer has rated RWJUH among the nation's best comprehensive cancer centers. The Leapfrog Group rated RWJUH among the 50 exceptional U.S. hospitals, as published in Consumers Digest, and has given the hospital an “A” grade for safety and quality. Harvard University researchers, in a study commissioned by The Commonwealth Fund, identified RWJUH as one of the top 10 hospitals in the nation for clinical quality. RWJUH is a four-time recipient of the prestigious Magnet Award for Nursing Excellence


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