We, like all animals, need sleep, along with food, water and oxygen, to survive. For us sleep is a vital indicator of overall health and well-being. Sleep protects our health and keeps us active and alert. In addition, it revs up our metabolism and regulates our hunger hormones so it helps us maintain a healthy weight. Sleep is important for mental function: alertness, memory consolidation, mood regulation, and physical health.
Sleep is important for your physical and mental health, but how many hours of sleep you need everyday depends on your age. The National Sleep Foundation with the help of experts identifies the ideal amount of time a person needs to sleep according to their age:
- Newborns (0 to 3 months): 14 to 17 hours of sleep
- Infants (4 to 11 months): 12 to 15 hours of sleep
- Toddlers (1 to 2 years): 11 to 14 hours of sleep
- Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): 10 to 13 hours of sleep
- School-aged children (6 to 13 years): 9 to 11 hours of sleep
- Teenagers (14 to 17 years): 8 to 10 hours of sleep
- Young adults (18 to 25 years): 7 to 9 hours of sleep
- Adults (26 to 64 years): 7 to 9 hours of sleep
- Older adults (65 years or older): 7 to 8 hours of sleep
This is the first time that any professional organization has developed age-specific scientific literature relating sleep duration to health, performance, and safety. It is providing these scientifically grounded guidelines on the amount of sleep we need each night to improve the sleep health of the millions of individuals and parents.
To pave the way for better sleep, follow these simple yet effective healthy sleep tips:
- Stick to a sleep schedule, even on weekends.
- Practice a relaxing bedtime mood.
- Exercise daily.
- Evaluate your bedroom to ensure ideal temperature, sound and light.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
- Beware of hidden sleep stealers, like alcohol and caffeine.
- Turn off electronics before bed.
- Most importantly, make sleep a priority.
You must schedule sleep like any other daily activity, so put it on your "to-do list". Follow a regular schedule to live a happier and healthier life. Erratic sleep patterns can leave you feeling out of track, so a regular sleep schedule may be exactly what you need. Just a few adjustments to your daily routine can help you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. These tips will help you take control of your internal clock:
- Pick a bedtime and a wake-up time—and stick to them as much as possible. Life will inevitably interfere, but try not to sleep in for more than an hour or two, tops, on Saturdays and Sundays so that you can stay on track.
- You won’t be able to pick your sleep schedule overnight. The most effective tactic is to make small changes slowly. If you’re trying to go to sleep at 10:00pm, rather than midnight, for example, try this: For the first three or four nights, go to bed at 11:45pm, and then go to bed at 11:30pm for the next few days. Keep adjusting your sleep schedule like this.
- Though it’s certainly tempting to hit the snooze button in the morning to get a few extra winks, resist. The first few days of getting up earlier won’t be easy, but post-snooze sleep isn’t high quality. Instead, set your alarm to the time that you actually need to get up. Rather, if you can, skip the alarm altogether. Your body should wake up naturally after a full night’s sleep—usually seven to nine hours—and you’ll feel most alert if you wake up without an electronic aid.
- Eat your last meal two to three hours before bedtime and have dinner around the same time every night. It will help keep your whole body on track. Also, limit how much you drink before bedtime to avoid trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night. You should also avoid nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol in the evenings, since those stimulants take hours to wear off. Drinking caffeine in the afternoon or evening can also prevent you from sleeping deeply.
- Beat stress. Stress not only makes you irritable and tense during the day—it can also make it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. That’s because it puts you in a state of hyper arousal, causing your blood pressure and your breathing rate to increase. The key to combating stress is relaxation. Relax your body and mind from all kinds of stresses before going to bed. If your body is relaxed at night, it can ease you into dreamland.
- A good workout can help you get stress free sound sleep. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, can dramatically improve the quality of your night-time sleep, especially when done on a regular basis. Physical activity improves sleep quality and increases sleep duration. Exercise may also bolster sleep in other ways, because it reduces stress and tires you out. Early morning and afternoon exercise may also help reset the sleep wake cycle by raising body temperature slightly, then allowing it to drop and trigger sleepiness a few hours later. It can be especially helpful if you are able to exercise outdoors and let your body absorb natural sunlight during the daytime hours.
- Before bedtime, dim as many lights as possible and turn off bright overhead lights.
- You may wake up during the night and not be able to get back to sleep. If you do wake up in the middle of the night, resist the urge to grab your Smartphone or tablet; these devices emit blue light, which can over-stimulate you and hinder your body’s ability to fall back to sleep.
- Avoid computers, tablets, cell phones, and TV an hour before bed, since your eyes are especially sensitive to the blue light from electronic screens.
Our cell phones, tablets, computers and other electronic gadgets have become such a huge part of our daily lives that it’s often hard to put them down—even at bedtime. Keeping your phone on your nightstand may not seem like a big deal, but technology affects your sleep in more ways than you realize. Whether you’re surfing the web, playing a video game, or using your phone as an alarm clock in the late evening, you’re probably keeping yourself from a restful night.
The blue light emitted by screens on cell phones, computers, tablets, and televisions restrain the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle or circadian rhythm. Reducing melatonin makes it harder to fall and stay asleep. Make your bedroom a technology-free zone—keep your electronics outside the room (even a TV!).
It may seem harmless to knock out a few emails before bed or unwind with a favourite movie, but by keeping your mind engaged, technology can trick your brain into thinking that it needs to stay awake. And if you’re surfing the web, seeing something exciting on Facebook, or reading a negative email, those experiences can make it hard to relax and settle into slumber. After spending an entire day surrounded by technology, your mind needs time to unwind.
Just because you’re not using your cell phone before bed doesn’t mean that it can’t harm your sleep: Keeping a mobile within reach can still disturb slumber, thanks to the chimes of late night texts, emails, calls, or calendar reminders. In case of school going children, to get a better night’s slumber, parents can limit their kids’ technology use in the bedroom, and mom and dad should be solid role models and set the tone by doing the same.
As sleep is essential for performing well in our work fields next day and after all for a healthy living, trend your body and mind to get the appropriate dose of it. Have a sound sleep.
Source: National Sleep Foundation (https://sleepfoundation.org)