Go to Sleep Already!
It has been said that “sleep is the most underrated health habit.” In our culture it’s almost a badge of honor to not get enough sleep. The only people that I will give a pass to on the sleep issue are new parents. They’re in the awful position of being sleep deprived because they have to care for an infant. When your baby is eating every 2 hours it’s impossible for you to get a good night’s sleep. The rest of us don’t have an excuse.
Why is it so important to sleep? We spend about 1/3 of our lives sleeping. Isn’t that a waste of time? Couldn’t we be doing more productive things? Actually, no. Sleep is directly related to brain function and lack of sleep makes your thinking and memory fuzzy. A tired brain makes mistakes. A Harvard Medical School study found that insomnia was associated with lost work and cost businesses more than $63 billion a year! We really need those zzzz's.
Besides having a fuzzy brain, people who get less than 7 hours of sleep a night are more likely to have chronic health problems. A study at Duke University found that poor sleep causes higher stress levels which can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and even depression. Weight gain is associated with lack of sleep.
At night when you sleep your brain is actually working. It’s clearing out toxins and consolidating memories. It’s also making new pathways to retrieve memories. Have you ever woken up and a big idea suddenly pops into your head? That’s because overnight your brain was consolidating “data.” If you are concerned about your memory, I suggest you sleep more.
The amount of sleep each person needs can vary. Here is an average by age according to the National Sleep Foundation:
SLEEP REQUIREMENTS BY AGE
- Newborn (0 – 3 months) 14 – 17 hours
- Infant (4 – 11 months) 12 – 15 hours
- Toddlers (1 – 2 years) 11 – 14 hours
- Preschoolers (3 –5 years) 10 – 13 hours
- School Age (6 – 13 years) 9 – 11 hours
- Teenagers (14 – 17 years) 8 – 10 hours
- Young Adults (18 – 25 years) 7 – 9 hours
- Adults (26 – 64 years) 7 – 9 hours
- Senior (+65) 7 – 8 hours
An easy way to know if you are getting enough sleep is to see how you feel when you wake up. If you’re still sleepy you probably need more sleep. If you are getting 8 to 10 hours and are still feeling tired, you may have interrupted sleep or a possible sleep disorder in which case you should see a doctor who can test and evaluate your sleep.
Often people have trouble getting to sleep but once asleep they tend to stay asleep. If this sounds like you, there are some ways to send a message to your body that it's time to sleep:
- Set your alarm clock to remind yourself to go to bed and go to bed at the same time every night.
- Make sure your room is cool. 65 degrees is ideal sleeping temperature.
- You can also take a warm bath or shower. When you get out the change in temperature will cool your body.
- Keep your room dark. Turn off all electronic devices. Charge your phone in another room.
- No eating, drinking, watching TV or reading in bed. Your bedroom should be for sleep and romance only.
- Don’t drink caffeine or alcohol 2 hours before bedtime.
- Make a bedtime routine that signals to your body it’s time to sleep.
- Meditation which reduces anxiety can also improve sleep.
So there you have it. Everything you need to know to sleep better and feel better.
Let me know if this was helpful. If you know someone who could benefit from this advice please share it.