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The importance of sleep

"The primary purpose of sleep is to heal and if people aren't sleeping well, their bodies aren't healing."

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - May is Mental Health Awareness Month and a key piece to nurturing our minds is getting good sleep.

“The primary purpose of sleep is to heal and if people aren't sleeping well, their bodies aren't healing,” says Dr. Keith Fridel, Licensed Clinical Psychologist with the Pulmonary Sleep Department at HealthPartners.

Fridel says the amount of sleep you need each night varies from person to person, and the common eight-hour-a-night recommendation doesn't hold true for everyone.

“The main cause of insomnia, for example, is people spending more time in bed to try to get more than what their true sleep need is,” Fridel says.

A lot of us are very focused on what time we get to bed at night, but according to Dr. Fridel, it's the time that you wake up that's key.

“Get out of bed seven days a week, 365 days a year, at exactly the same time every morning, no matter what,” Fridel recommends. “It's the time we get up in the morning that's the only thing that determines the time we fall asleep at night,” he adds. “Stop sleeping in on the weekends. It's jet lag without ever leaving your house.”

Dr. Fridel says the exact time of day you wake up isn't relevant and the key is to just be consistent with whatever it is.

He says a good mattress and pillow shouldn't be underestimated and not getting enough sleep can put you more at risk for struggling with mental health issues.

If you have concerns about your sleep, Fridel says it’s a good thing to bring up to your doctor.

“Only about 10 percent of people ever discuss sleep problems with their physicians,” he says. “It's critically important to talk about sleep with your primary care physician.”