A good night’s sleep is priceless as it sets the tone for a whole new day!
And no wonder since sleep is essential for your body, your mind, your interactions, your safety, and overall, a good quality of life.
How much sleep should you get? Adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night on average. But people’s bodies and needs vary. Some people are able to thrive with 5 to 6 hours of total sleep, others have fewer than 7 hours but nap during the day, and others only feel fully rested with over 8 hours of sleep.
Yet children and adolescents need more sleep due to their bodies not yet being fully developed:
- teenagers: 8 – 10 hours
- children 6 – 12 years: 9- 12 hours
- children 3 – 5 years: 10 – 13 hours
- children 1 – 2 years: 11 – 14 hours
- infants 4 -12 months: 12 – 16 hours
How do you know if you are getting a good night’s sleep?
The amount of needed sleep really depends of the individual, her/his physical health and state throughout the day. A good indicator of a good night’s sleep is waking up well-rested and ready to start your day. You should feel alert shortly after waking up and, generally, in a good mood. A good night’s sleep is a matter of quantity (according to your own body and age group) but also quality (uninterrupted and deep).
Feeling the need to drink more than 1 cup of coffee or feeling sleepy during the day while reading, in front of the computer, or watching TV are signs that you are not getting enough sleep. So listen to your body!
Benefits of Sleep
There are a whole array of processes that take place while you sleep. Here are a few of them:
- Healthy sleeping supports brain functions like memory, learning, productivity, attention, and creativity
- It assist growth and development in childhood, adolescence, and pregnancy, and even when aiming to gain muscle mass
- Healthy sleep helps the body deal with inflammation
- It’s involved in healing and repair of your heart, blood vessels, joints and muscles
- Improves stamina and performance
- Maintains healthy hormonal balance. Sex hormones, growth hormone, and hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin) are disrupted with the presence of sleep disturbances
- Helps you lose more body fat and maintain a healthy body weight
- Keeps blood sugar balanced while sleep deficiency results in higher than normal blood sugar levels
- Allows your immune system to work optimally
- Helps control your emotions, your mood, your impulsivity, and your reactivity to stress
- Enables more positive interactions with others
- Keeps you alert, decreasing your risk of accidents
Taking in consideration the importance of sleep, it’s necessary to act preventively and be mindful of all the things that can negatively affect your sleep patterns.
The following are some factors that can affect you:
- Emotional / Psychological Conditions: Inability to cope with stress adequately, depression, anxiety, PTSD, or/and the loss of a loved one.
- Sleep disturbances: Worrying about not getting enough sleep can in itself affect you since you are tense and your cortisol levels are high. This is a whole vicious cycle!
- EMFs: Electromagnetic fields are wireless energy waves that surround electronic devices and affect our own electric and biochemical responses, according to the World Health Organization. Some examples are WiFi, TVs, cell phones, computers, alarm clocks, stereos, electric blankets, baby monitors, and blue lights among others. Aim to turn all electronics off since they can cause sleep loss, mood disturbances, lowered immunity, relationship problems, poor performance, and other health issues.
- Lighting: It is best to sleep in total darkness to allow your circadian rhythms to be on point. The circadian rhythm or sleep/wake cycle is your 24-hour internal clock that runs in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. Turn off Compact Fluorescent Bulbs -CFBs (which give off blue light), Halogen Bulbs (white lights), and Light-Emitting Diode Bulbs (LEDs) in your bedroom to prepare your body before bed. Keep Red Light in your bedroom as red wavelengths of light are most conducive to sleep and don’t interfere with your melatonin or circadian rhythm. These color-adjustable bulbs are dimmable and have a timer, great for the bedroom!
- Products with Caffeine: Coffee, caffeinated teas, soda, energy drinks and chews, coffee and chocolate ice creams, hot chocolate, and chocolate bars
- Medications: Alpha-blockers and beta-blockers (high blood pressure meds), corticosteroids (inflammation meds), SSRI anti-depressants, ACE-inhibitors (for high blood pressure and congestive heart failure), angiotensin II-receptor blockers (for coronary heart disease and heart failure), statins (treat high cholesterol), cholinesterase inhibitors (for memory loss), second-generation (nonsedating) H1 antagonists (antihistamines), diuretics, sympathomimetic stimulants (treat ADD), theophylline (for asthma), and thyroid hormone
- Drugs, Alcohol and Nicotine
- Pain and other Medical Conditions
- Exercise: It’s not recommended to exercise before going to sleep because your heart rate and temperatures are elevated. This doesn’t unwind you but has the opposite of what your body needs before bed; it energizes you. Make sure to exercise at least 2 hours before getting ready for bed. Yet, if you must exercise before bed, take a cooling shower, stretch, and do some breathing exercises or meditation to bring your brain waves into a more calmed state. Keep in mind that people who exercise, no matter what time, have generally better sleep than those who are sedentary. So no need to stop your activity levels -just adjust them!
Now that you are fully aware of how critical to you existence is sleep and how many factors affect your sleeping cycle, you must guard the quality of your sleep as if you were guarding a hallowed treasure! Sweet Dreams!!!
To a Fitter Healthier You,
The Fitness Wellness Mentor