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Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

By: Kenneth Smith, MD





If you think of sleeping as a waste of time, you may become sleep deprived. If you’re on the other end of the spectrum, you may feel fatigued even after getting nine hours of sleep per night. Knowing how much sleep you should be getting – and maximizing those hours once you’re in bed – will enhance your waking life.

Healthy Sleep Hours
There is no one ideal bedtime or sleep duration. Your genes largely determine how much sleep you need, in order to feel well rested. According to the Division of Sleep at Harvard Medical School, they also help decide whether you’re a night owl or a morning person. Your age also influences your sleep needs. Generally, a person needs less sleep per night as they age. According to the National Sleep Foundation, newborns need 12 to 18 hours of sleep, infants need 14 to 15, toddlers need 12 to 14, preschoolers need 11 to 13, school-age children need 10 to 11, and pre-teens and teens need 8.5 to 9.25. Once you’re an adult, you may need anywhere from about 7.5 to nine hours of sleep to function optimally during the day.

Finding Your “Sleep Norm”
Just because the average adult needs about 7.5 to nine hours of sleep per night doesn’t mean you couldn’t live a healthy life on seven hours of sleep or 9.5 hours of sleep per night. What it all comes down to is how your body functions.  The best way to determine your personal sleep requirement is to evaluate your sleep habits and your body’s cues. Start by determining your fatigue levels throughout the day and jotting down notes. If you notice that you often drowsy on your way to work and that you frequently need a pick-me-up just to get through the day, chances are you’re not meeting your body’s sleep needs. You may also be sleep deprived if you need an alarm clock, frequently hit the “snooze” button, struggle to get out of bed, need to sleep in during the weekend, and fall asleep within about five minutes of lying down in bed. Try adding some time to your sleep regimen.

To get a clearer idea of how many hours of sleep you need, take a two-week period of time in which your schedule allows you some sleep/wake flexibility. An ideal occasion for this may be an extended vacation. Throughout these two weeks, go to bed at the same time every night and never set an alarm clock or allow anyone else to wake you up. You may need more sleep at the onset of this experiment if you haven’t been getting enough sleep recently. Jot down your sleep and wake times every day. Once your body “catches up” on sleep, you should discover that you sleep for approximately the same duration every night. This is your “magic number.”

Sleep Deprivation Risks
Feeling crummy is just one problem linked to sleep deprivation. The National Sleep Foundation says that you have plenty more to be concerned about if you don’t get enough sleep. First of all, sleeping too few hours can reduce your productivity at work and prevent your mind from fully remembering and consolidating information. Some other serious consequences of sleep deprivation are a reduced ability to focus and react to important signals, a greater risk of obesity, a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes, a higher risk of stress and depression, a greater risk of substance abuse, and a higher likelihood of getting into car accidents. In fact, because sleep deprivation impairs your focus, your decision-making skills and your coordination, driving while drowsy can be just as dangerous as driving while drunk.

Quality Over Quantity
Nine lousy hours of sleep won’t be as restorative as seven high-quality hours of sleep. In fact, a 2010 meta-analysis in “Sleep” journal – which assessed the results of 16 sleep-related studies – noted that both a short sleep duration and a long sleep duration are correlated with a higher risk of death from all causes. If you continue to struggle to wake up in the morning and to stay alert throughout the day, despite giving yourself sufficient sleep time, getting more sleep may not be your remedy. In truth, you may be suffering from not spending a sufficient amount of time in specific sleep cycles. That problem is a little trickier to fix than simply adding hours to your sleep window. You might need to see a sleep specialist to treat an underlying sleep condition, but you may also be able to enhance your sleep hours by adjusting some lifestyle factors.

Maximizing Your Sleep Hours
What you do during your waking hours can have a serious effect – positive or negative – on the quality of your sleep. To start, ditch foods and drinks that have caffeine in them at least six hours prior to sleep. If you enjoy a glass of wine each night, finish drinking it two or more hours before bedtime. Caffeine and alcohol can disrupt your sleep cycles. Next, set up a consistent sleep routine, wherein you go to bed at the same time every evening and wake up at the same time every day. This includes weekends. Also, set up a pre-sleep routine that prepares your mind and body for sleep. Turn off the television and computer screens at least an hour before you go to sleep, dim the lights to prepare your brain for sleep, and take a bath or engage in another activity that you find soothing. Bringing racing thoughts to bed is a sure-fire way to impair the quality of your sleep. Consider that you may also need to adjust your sleep environment if you know that a lumpy pillow, warm room, loud fan, or other environmental factors wake you up in the night.

At the end of the day, better sleep is better health. We hope you take this important information and have many restful days and nights to follow.

Article From Inter Valley Health Plan

 



 


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