The month of March is designated as National Sleep Awareness Month. As our clocks spring forward one hour with the return of Daylight Saving Time, it is important to consider how a small change in our sleep can affect our health.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 of every 3 Americans doesn't get enough sleep on a regular basis. The recommended amount of sleep varies depending on age, as well as, other factors. According to the American Sleep Association, infants should get around 16 hours of sleep, teenagers need about 9 hours, while adults should get between 7-8 hours a night.
Unfortunately, about 35% of US adults are sleeping less than 7 hours a night. Getting less than the recommended 7 hours a night has been associated with increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Chronic sleep deprivation has many other negative effects on our bodies and minds including:
- Increased reaction times
- Weakened immune system with increased susceptibility to illness
- Insufficient time for cellular regeneration and repair
- Decreased growth hormone secretion which can impair injury recovery and wound healing
- Cognitive impairments such as memory lapses, impaired judgement
Fortunately there are steps we can take to help improve our sleep. Here is a list of tips for better sleep hygiene.
- Have a sleep schedule – go to bed and wake up at approximately the same time each day (+/- 20 minutes)
- Create a pre-bedtime routine to help calm the body and mind.
- Don’t watch TV or read in bed. Reserve the bedroom for sleeping.
- Create a comfortable environment. – Keep the temperature cooler, the room dark, and have a comfortable mattress
- Don't stay in bed awake for more than 5-10 minutes. If you are having trouble falling asleep get up and move around or sit quietly in the dark before trying again.
- Avoid daytime naps if possible – they can disrupt your ability to fall asleep later
- Avoid cigarettes, alcohol and over the counter medications as they may fragment sleep
- Be careful with caffeinated beverages – their effects can last hours after ingestion and can fragment sleep. Try to drink them before noon.
- Exercise regularly – but avoid vigorous exercise right before bedtime.
Getting adequate sleep is critical to our overall physical and mental health and wellbeing. For more information check out the websites listed below.