The National Sleep Foundation in celebrating its annual Sleep Awareness Week, March 10 to 16, 2019. This year’s theme “Begin with Sleep” highlights the importance of good sleep health for individuals to best achieve their personal, family, and professional goals. Experts say that an adult individual should have 8-10 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night on a regular basis, however, these recommendations depend on the individual’s age:
- Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
- Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
- Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
- Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
- School-age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
- Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
- Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
- Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
- Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)
Studies also show that individuals should stick to a sleep schedule during the week and on the weekends and “catching up on sleep during the weekends” will not restore an individual’s sleep during the week.
The term “sleep hygiene” refers to a series of healthy sleep habits that can improve an individual’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. These habits are a cornerstone of cognitive behavioral therapy, the most effective long-term treatment for individuals with chronic insomnia. Practicing good sleep hygiene can not only help an individual focus better at tasks but it can also improve their mood, energy and immune function. On the other hand, getting poor sleep on a regular basis can lead to a multitude of problems such as depressed mood, an increase in stress levels, fatigue, poor concentration, a lack of energy which can all contribute to poor work performance and a strain on relationships. Frequent sleep disturbances and daytime sleepiness are the most telling signs of poor sleep hygiene. In addition, if an individual is taking too long to fall asleep, they should consider evaluating their sleep routine and revising their bedtime habits. Just a few simple changes can make the difference between a good night’s sleep and a night spent tossing and turning.
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or during vacations.
- Set a bedtime that is early enough for you to get at least 7 hours of sleep.
- Limiting daytime naps to 30 minutes. Napping does not make up for inadequate nighttime sleep. However, a short nap of 20-30 minutes can help to improve mood, alertness, and performance.
- Ensuring adequate exposure to natural light. This is particularly important for individuals who may not venture outside frequently. Exposure to sunlight during the day, as well as darkness at night, helps to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
- Use your bed only for sleep.
- Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing. Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature.
- Limit exposure to bright light in the evenings.
- Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime. If you are hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack.
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet.
- Avoid consuming caffeine in the late afternoon or evening.
- Avoid consuming alcohol before bedtime.
- Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime.
Daylight savings time and sleep
Spring forward; fall back, even though the clocks change by only an hour during Daylight Savings Time, the effects can be noticeable. This is especially true in the spring when individuals lose an hour of the day and that hour is often subtracted from time spent sleeping. Within a few days, the individual should adjust to the new time schedule naturally as their circadian rhythm catches up to their new reality. If the individual has the foresight to plan ahead, it helps to prepare for losing that hour of sleep by going to bed 15 to 20 minutes earlier than usual each night in the days leading up to the time change. If this is not feasible then try to at least turn in earlier on the night of the time change to try to recoup some of that lost shuteye.
To help the brain and body make the shift more quickly, it also helps to sleep in for an extra half hour on the Sunday morning after the clocks change as a way to be exposed to sunlight early in the morning. If it is difficult to get natural sunlight in the morning, consider using a lightbox or dawn simulator to enhance mental and physical alertness.