Sleep is such an important function of our everyday lives. Sleep affects our mental and physical well-being in numerous ways. Between repairing our bodies, to giving us the strength to overcome daily challenges, without getting enough sleep we can find ourselves struggling to accomplish tasks that we would normally be able to complete. The average adult needs approximately seven hours of sleep, with a small percentage being able to feel rested after 4.5-6 hours.
Children between newborns to teenagers need various amounts of sleep.
Infants (0–3 months) are recommended to need 14–17 hours.
Infants (4–12 months) are recommended to need 12–16 hours.
Toddlers (1–2 years) on average need 11–14 hours.
Preschool (3–5 years) are recommended to receive 10–13 hours.
School-age (6–13 years) are recommended to get 9–12 hours.
Teens (14–17 years) 8–10 hours of sleep per night.
The consequences of not getting enough sleep can lead to significant medical concerns. Repeated lack of rest can lead to an increased risk of a chronic illness or make you more susceptible to diabetes. It can lead to struggling to get through the day, complete tasks, or even successfully manage everyday stressors that you may experience. The effects of this could lead to an increased risk of mental health symptoms such as depression and anxiety and could also increase the risk of suicide ideations or attempts.
Improve Your Sleep Pattern
Many Americans yearly are treated for sleep-related disorders. Over-the-counter medications (melatonin, ZZZ Quill, Benadryl, and other over-the-counter sleep aids) are commonly sought after to help improve sleep. But there are things that you can do to help improve sleep patterns.
Awareness of your sleep routine: Understanding how you are preparing for sleep is a big factor in taking steps to improve overall sleep. This develops self-awareness of behaviors that could potentially be aiding in the sleep challenges to problem solve.
Taking in caffeine late in the day can affect your body’s ability to prepare for sleep. Some individuals find that drinking caffeine after 2 pm can impact their ability to get to sleep at a reasonable time, for adults, this may be around 10 pm. Additionally, making sure that we are not consuming too much caffeine throughout the day is also a factor to consider. According to the Sleep Foundation, caffeine affects the body by blocking adenosine receptors, which is a sleep-promoting chemical that is produced in the brain while you are awake. The more it builds up, the sleepier you become. Caffeine blocks this process and causes you to be alert and vigilant. This can lead to insomnia in some cases, which causes individuals to consume more caffeine for the desired feeling of being awake and alert. Caffeine can be effective as early as 30 minutes, lasting up to five hours. The half-life (the time it takes for your body to eliminate half of the dose you consumed) is approximately 2-12 hours. The FDA recommends that individuals consume no more than 400 mg of caffeine per day. This is not to say that some individuals are not safely able to consume more, while some may not be able to consume 400 mg a day without experiencing side effects.
Drink plenty of water- It is recommended that you should drink between 2-3 liters of water per day to maintain hydration. Not drinking enough water can lead to nighttime cramps that can wake you up while sleeping or prevent you from falling asleep. Headaches can also be a cause of not enough water intake. In addition, by not getting enough sleep, you are at a higher risk of dehydration with studies showing that it affects a hormone called vasopressin in the brain that helps retain fluid in the body rather than excreting it. To improve your water intake, it is recommended to drink water first thing in the morning, keep a water bottle with you, limit soda and other sugary drinks, include water-rich fruit and veggies in your diet, and keep your bedroom cool at night.
Exercising is shown to help prepare your body for sleep. However, it is recommended not to exercise right before bed as it may stimulate your body to wake up. However, this is not the case for everyone, so it is important to know how you respond to exercise before establishing a routine. 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day is shown to improve sleep quality at night.
Eat at the same times, daily: Eating within three hours of sleep is shown to disrupt sleep, and could exacerbate if an individual overeats during that meal. Not sleeping well, or not getting enough sleep increases the risks of not making healthy food decisions. Be predictable with the times that you eat your meals and try not to eat just before bedtime.
Limit your screen time. The light on our televisions and devices often will wake us up and prevent our bodies from being able to fall asleep. Some individuals are unable to keep a television in their bedroom to prevent the light from affecting being able to go to sleep. However, some rely on the television for the noise to assist with sleep. Again, knowing your patterns and what has been helpful is critical to making the appropriate and healthy decisions for you.
Routines are helpful as they help us predict day-to-day activities. This is also helpful in helping your body recognize and predict bedtime. Maintaining a consistent bedtime is important to your body’s ability to predict preparing for sleep. This can be hard due to various reasons. No matter the reason, it is important to maintain a routine that works for you.
Taking naps late in the day can negatively impact your body’s ability to prepare for sleep. Studies show that napping after 12 pm can affect nighttime sleep. It is also recommended to limit naps to no longer than 1 hour.
Manage worries- Some individuals report that they are unable to turn off their minds to prepare for sleep. This can keep a person awake and unable to achieve sleep. Engaging in mindfulness before bed can help clear the mind and help to feel relaxed and able to fall asleep.
Talk to Your Doctor
Know when to talk to your doctor: repeated nights of no sleep can lead to significant health and mental health challenges. If you have found yourself struggling to get restful sleep and the tips are not helping, it may be time to be evaluated for underlying causes that could be at play. Many Americans are treated for various sleep disorders every year. Your provider can talk to you about your sleep habits and help you troubleshoot strategies to help overcome sleepless nights.
Take care of yourself and give your body the rest you deserve. In addition to your provider assessing and treating your sleep problems, behavioral health can work with you on developing mindfulness strategies that can assist you in turning your mind off and sleeping peacefully. Our agency has a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia group we can also provide for you to learn additional skills to improve quality of sleep. Let us know how we can help you feel rested and ready to tackle the day's stressors and maintain a healthy lifestyle and life. We are committed to helping you live your best life and enjoying Alaska to its fullest.
Sunshine Community Health Center