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March is All About Sleep Awareness

Written by Lauren Smaldone, ANP

Dear Bed, I love you.

Why do we need sleep?

In honor of World Sleep Day on March 13, 2020, we're taking a look at why sleep is so important to overall health. While we all feel better after a good night’s sleep, many of us do not achieve this goal every night. According to the CDC, a third of US adults report that they usually get less than the recommended amount of sleep.

Across age groups, sleep deficiency is a common public health problem in the United States. The amount of sleep required per night changes according to your age. Here are the recommended sleep amounts by age group, according to the National Sleep Foundation:

  • School age children (6-13): 9-11 hours a night
  • Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours a night
  • Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours a night
  • Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours a night
  • Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours a night

Do you get enough sleep?

In this busy day and age, obtaining an adequate amount of sleep per night often does not take priority. Why is sleep so important to health?

According to the National Sleep foundation, sleep is not merely a time of rest after a busy stressful day. Sleep is an active period in which important processing, restoration, and strengthening occurs. Sleeping helps us solidify and consolidate our memories.

Researchers have also shown that after people sleep, they tend to retain information and perform better on memory tasks. Our bodies all require long periods of sleep in order to restore and rejuvenate, to grow muscle, repair tissue, and synthesize hormones and have a health immune system

Sleep deprivation not only results in a cranky, foul mood but is also linked with many chronic diseases and conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression. Sleep deprivation also can lead to motor vehicle crashes and mistakes at work. Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don't get enough sleep you feel hungrier than when you're well-rested.

Burning the midnight oil

I want to focus on what we can do to improve sleep hygiene, a series of healthy sleep habits that can improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep

Limit Technology

Using electronic devices before bedtime can be physiologically and psychologically stimulating in ways that can adversely affect your sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, using TVs, tablets, smartphones, laptops, or other electronic devices before bed delays your body’s internal clock, suppresses the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and makes it more difficult to fall asleep.

The more electronic devices that a person uses in the evening, the harder it is to fall asleep or stay asleep. Over time, these effects can add up to a significant, chronic deficiency in sleep.

Avoid Excessive Caffeine

Caffeine is a drug that acts as a stimulant, both mentally and physically. It is found in common foods and drinks such as tea, coffee, soda and chocolate.

Caffeine can affect sleep in three ways. This stimulant can make it harder to go to sleep, it can make you sleep more lightly and wake up more often during the night, and it may make you have to get up to go to the bathroom throughout the night.

Limit Alcohol

Drinking alcohol can make you feel sleepy therefore helping you fall asleep at night. However alcohol can disrupt your sleep later. According to Sleep Health Foundation, in the second half of the night, sleep after consuming alcohol is associated with more frequent awakenings, night sweats, nightmares, headaches and is much less restful.

Stop smoking!

Nicotine is a stimulant and makes it harder to fall asleep.

The bottom line:

The good news is that most sleep complaints can improve by being attentive to behaviors that are referred to as “sleep hygiene.”

  • Be consistent. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends. Set a bedtime where you can get at least 7 hours of sleep.
  • Use your bed only for sleep or sex. Don’t watch TV, read your iPad, or study in bed.
  • Ensure a comfortable sleep environment. Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a pleasant temperature.
  • Read a book before bed. Avoid the electronic blackhole. Remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, and smartphones from the bedroom.
  • Avoid caffeine at least 4 hours before bedtime.
  • Adjust your eating habits. You should allow 2-3 hours between the last main meal of the day and going to bed
  • Avoid alcohol for at least 4 hours before going to bed. It will disrupt your sleep during the night.
  • Get some exercise! Being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night.

If you do not notice an improvement in quality and length of sleep, please visit your primary care provider to rule out other causes of sleep deprivation.

The views expressed in this article intend to highlight alternative studies and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of HeyDoctor, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

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