Sleep Well to Be Well
Are you familiar with the saying, “sleep like a baby?” Well, I wondered why anyone would want to sleep like a baby? Babies frequently wake up because they are hungry, teething, or needing a diaper change. It took my newborn daughter weeks to sleep through the night. I needed better information to address my own sleep issues!
I am a night owl who was averaging 5 hours of sleep a night, and I started feeling like a slug after about three days of little shut eye. Since I am committed to a healthy lifestyle, I made it my goal last year to learn about sleep and get more of it!
My research validated that “sleeping like a baby” involved a lot of interrupted sleep. Some experts even noted that babies have shorter sleep cycles than adults (not what we need), and they have difficulty falling back to sleep in the middle of the night.
However, I was not completely correct! According to James Maas, Ph.D., author of Sleep for Success and Power of Sleep, adults SHOULD adopt a few of the sleep routines common to babies. But, before we talk about what we need to do to get a good night’s rest, let’s explore the benefits of sleeping well.
Understand How Sleep Affects Your Health and Safety
Along with nutrition and exercise, sleep is one of three fundamental elements of a healthy lifestyle. According to researchers, Michael H. Bonnet and Donna L. Arand, “There is strong evidence that sufficient shortening or disturbance of the sleep process compromises mood, performance and alertness and can result in injury or death.
In other words, lack of sleep may negatively affect your health and jeopardize the safety of you and others. Note the risks in the table below.
Assess and Improve Your “Sleep Hygiene” for a Healthier Future
|Get on a Schedule||Healthy sleep is part of the daily rhythm of life. Your body sleeps best at night when it is dark. It also functions best when you keep a regular routine. Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time every morning.According to Maas, “If you stick to a schedule, your body is more alert than if you slept for the same total amount of time at varying hours during the week.” Babies typically wake up, nap, and go down to sleep at night on a regular schedule|
|Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual / wind down||“In order to sleep soundly through the night, your body needs to prepare itself for the long period of inactivity ahead,” says Maas. “It needs a buffer between the day’s stress and the night’s rest.”Spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading.Babies are often prepared for bed with a comforting bath and/or a nursery rhyme or a lullaby.|
|Avoid naps, when possible||If you have difficulty falling asleep at night, try to avoid even a short catnap; especially in the afternoon. However, when fatigue sets in, a quick nap can do wonders for your mental and physical stamina.A short nap (20-30) minutes provides significant benefit for improved alertness and performance without leaving you feeling groggy or interfering with nighttime sleep.Keep in mind that getting enough sleep on a regular basis is the best way to stay alert and feel your best.|
|Exercise daily||Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.|
|Evaluate your room||Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool (between 60-67 degrees), and free from any noise that can disturb your sleep.Your bedroom should be free from light and disruptions, such as a snoring partner.Consider using blackout shades/curtains, eye mask, or ear plugs or “white noise” machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices.|
|Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows||Life expectancy for most good quality mattresses is 9 or 10 years. If yours has exceeded its life expectancy, you may need to replace it for comfort and support.Make the room attractive and inviting for sleep, but also free of allergens that might affect you and objects that might cause you to slip or fall if you have to get up during the night.|
|Use light to manage your body (circadian) rhythms||For instance, if you are exposing yourself to artificial, Electric Light, from computers or other devices, it may be interfering with your ability to sleep well because the light coming from the screens of these devices is activating the brain. Avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night.Do expose yourself to sunlight in the morning to keep your rhythms in check.|
|Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening||Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can disrupt sleep. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep.It is good to finish eating at least 2-3 hours before bedtimes.|
Assess How Much Sleep You Need
Research indicates that there is no “Magic Number” for the duration of sleep. Though research cannot pinpoint an exact amount of sleep needed by people at different ages, the illustration for quantity of sleep identifies the “rule-of-thumb” amounts most experts have agreed upon. Some people need seven hours a night and others need nine hours to live a productive and happy life.
According to Michael J. Breus, PhD, a Clinical Psychologist, Diplomat of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, your sleep goal should be to wake up naturally just about the time your alarm is set to wake you up. While most people need 7.5 hours sleep, measuring your sleep efficiency (quality of your sleep) will help you determine how much you need
- Research reflects that the average person has 5 sleep cycles per night
- The average sleep cycle is approximately 90 minutes long
- Based on this information the average person needs about 7.5 hours sleep (multiply 5 sleep cycles per night by 90 minutes each for 450 minutes)
- So, count backwards from your wake-up time 7.5 hours and you have a starting point for your bedtime
- To learn more about sleep efficiency and the benefits of each sleep cycle on your body, visit: http://blog.doctoroz.com/oz-experts/calculating-your-perfect-bedtime-and-sleep-efficiency
Key Summary Points About Sleep:
Sleep Affects Your Physical Health: It promotes peak performance and productivity. It also helps you fight off infection, maintain a healthy weight, and avoid chronic diseases. Without healthy sleep you are more likely to have heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
Healthy Sleep is Essential for Your Mental Health: Healthy sleep helps you to balance your mood and emotions. Without healthy sleep you are more likely to struggle with feelings of anxiety and depression.
Healthy Sleep Improves Your Memory and Focus: It sharpens your mind so that you can think clearly. Sleep helps you excel at school and work. Without healthy sleep you are more likely to be forgetful and make mistakes.
Healthy Sleep Promotes Personal and Public Safety: It keeps you alert and helps you to react quickly. Without healthy sleep you are more likely to have an accident while driving or at work.
Healthy Sleep Involves Making the Right Choices to Prioritize and Protect Sleep:
Make healthy sleep one of your top priorities.
Seek Professional Help for Sleep Disorders: The quantity, quality and regularity of your sleep can be disrupted if you have a sleep disorder. Talk to your doctor if you have an ongoing problem that prevents you from sleeping well.
You must sleep well to be well, and remember the following:
Test Your Sleep IQ
|Visit the National Sleep Foundation via this link to Test Your Sleep IQ|
Goodnight! Sleep Well!