Had to finish the book, lost down the social media rabbit hole, or “I just can’t sleep”. Any of these sound familiar? People have so many things that occupy their time now, that sleep might be an afterthought for many.  But activity at the cost of sleep is a mistake.  Many people fail to realize that the 25-35% of each day we spend sleeping is productive, and crucial to living an energetic and successful life. Like our diet and exercise habits, it can be difficult to make sleep a priority. Sleep gives our body and mind the chance to repair, rebuild and recover from the events of our daily life. While you sleep, your body repairs itself from the stress of the day.

A productive night’s sleep helps our body in several ways:

  • Renews energy.
  • Boosts the immune system and promotes general health. Sleep deprivation may contribute to an increased risk of infections and other conditions, including heart disease.
  • Balances our appetites by helping to regulate hormones that play a role in our feelings of hunger and fullness. When we’re sleep deprived, we may feel hungry more often.
  • Lack of proper sleep contributes to impaired memory and thinking, increased number of work-related accidents, and is a major risk factor for depression and anxiety problems.

Sleep is an important part of health that is often overlooked. One out of three Americans do not get the recommended amount of sleep. Most healthy adults need at least seven hours of sleep each night and school-aged children (6-12 years old) need nine to twelve hours each night. Sleep doesn’t just affect your energy, but it relates to your overall emotional and physical well-being. Not getting enough sleep is associated with an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and clinical depression.

There are some steps you can take to improve your overall sleep quality:

  • Establish a routine sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. This window of sleep should be at least 7 hours long and be consistent even on weekends.
  • Create a sleep-friendly environment by keeping your room quiet, dark, relaxing and at a cool temperature. If you work a night shift, purchase blackout curtains or an eye mask to block sunlight.
  • Keep your room tech-free. Limit TV, computer, and smartphone use at least 30 minutes before going to bed.
  • Establish a bedtime routine, such as meditation or reading, that is relaxing and prepares your body for rest.
  • Exercise regularly. Routine exercise will help you sleep more soundly throughout the night.
  • Avoid caffeine late in the afternoon. This may make it difficult to fall asleep at night.
  • Avoid alcohol before bed. Alcohol reduces REM sleep, an important component of restful sleep, and can leave you feeling less rested the next day.
  • If you have trouble falling asleep, try deep breathing and counting exercises. After 20 minutes, if you still cannot fall asleep, get out of bed and try again later.

Consider keeping a sleep diary to document your sleep habits and routine.

Do adults need to sleep 8 hours a night?

Not necessarily. The amount of sleep adults need to be alert throughout the day varies from one person to another.  Studies suggest that adults who sleep 6-8 hours a night have lower death rates. However, it’s not clear if sleeping more or less causes health problems or if this is a symptom of other health issues. There are many factors that contribute to the amount of sleep you need each day. Although each person may have unique requirements, approximately 95% of adults require 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Not only do people differ in the amount of sleep they need, but an individual’s needs may be different at different times in their lives.

Should I stay in bed when I can’t sleep?

It is better to get out of bed when you wake up in the middle of the night wide awake. Instead of lying in bed, go to another room and do something that is relaxing until you are tired again.

Continue reading March 2022 Newsletter: Exercise before Bedtime