Get a Better Night’s Sleep
Talk to any couple with a newborn and they’ll vehemently share their feelings regarding the traumatic effects of chronic sleep deprivation. The problem is that the rest of us can take good sleep for granted and we don’t worry so much if we lose an hour here or there. We simply rely on our fancy coffee drinks and the fantasy of returning to bed in the evening to get us through our groggy days.
However, the reality is that “a good night’s sleep” is about much more than feeling alert or a wake the next day. As the sleep experts at Harvard tell us, there are all kinds of negative side effects when your body loses an hour of sleep here or there, week after week.
Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep
Let’s skip “mental clarity” as one of sleep’s benefits – that groggy feeling resulting from a poor night’s sleep is one we’re all familiar with. Here are some of the lesser-acknowledged benefits of establishing healthy sleep patterns.
Healthy sleep benefits:
- Your ability to learn
- Immune system function
- Emotional well-being
- The ability for the body to heal its tissues
- Heart health
- The ability to lose weight and keep it off
- Hormone balance
- Blood sugar balance
- General safety and physical well-being
So, what does a good night’s sleep look and feel like?
Sleep Needs Vary According to Age and Activity Level
Yes, there are people who only need four hours a sleep each night, and there are adults who need at least 9 or 10 to feel good. On average, however, sleep needs are consistent per age and stage of life. Here are some average recommendations based on meta-analysis of multiple sleep studies:
- Newborns: 16 to 18 hours per day
- Pre-school: 11 to 12 hours per day
- School age: At least 10 hours per day
- Teenagers: 9 hours on average, although many teens need 10+ hours of sleep per day to weather the hormonal and developmental changes that occur during adolescence and puberty.
- Adults (including elderly): 7 to 8 hours per day
Do you see a discrepancy between what’s listed above and your household’s sleep patterns? Perhaps it’s time to re-boot the system and develop healthier sleep habits.
Build Healthy Sleep Habits
Healthy sleep habits are worth establishing for yourself as well as your family. They will help your household to remain fit, healthy, alert, and joyful – and who doesn’t want to live life feeling like that?
- Establish a schedule. First, it’s important to establish a sleep schedule. Your body will become accustomed to this schedule and any significant shifts – or irregularity – in that pattern can make it difficult to fall asleep at your preferred time or wake up feeling refreshed when you need it. If scheduled sleep and wake times are new for you and your household, adhere to the schedule over the weekends too, at least for the first few months, until sound sleep has become the habitual norm.
- Create a restful bedroom environment. Sleepfoundation.org says, “Your bedroom is your sanctuary from the stresses of the day. Use your senses to create the best environment for sleep,” and it provides a range of tips for doing so. We recommend visiting their Sleep & Bedroom Environment page to learn more about what that means for you.
- Cut out stimulants. Stimulants such as nicotine, alcohol and caffeine can seriously hinder your body’s ability to relax into sleep. Even so-called remedies like cold or allergy tablets can be the culprit. The older you get, the more susceptible you may be to stimulants – even those you’ve been acquainted with for some time. Many people find that eliminating stimulants by at least an hour or more before sleep helps. In some cases, you may find cutting them out altogether is the best bet to establish a healthy sleep pattern.
- Enjoy 30-minutes of screen-free time. Light of any kind, other than the red-light spectrum, disrupts your brain’s biochemical production. Most notably, the light projected from a gadget or TV screen hinders the production of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. So, while reading emails on your smartphone or tablet may seem like an end of the day wind down – it stimulates your brain and makes it more difficult for you to fall asleep once the lights are out. We recommend reading, Scary Ways Technology Affects Your Sleep, for more information on the topic.
Are you having a difficult time sleeping? If the above techniques fail you, schedule an appointment with us here at Family Wellness Center. We’ll help you assess the potential causes for your restlessness and/or insomnia – and we’ll work with you to find a solution. It’s time you had some sweet dreams again.
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