Are You Getting Enough Sleep?
On Sunday, April 3 at 2:00 in the morning you're going to lose an hour of sleep, because once again it's Daylight Savings Time. We'll move our clocks ahead to get more sunlight in the evening hours. Losing an hour of sleep one night a year isn't a big deal, but are you getting enough sleep the other 364 nights?
Individual needs vary greatly and depend on several factors. They include:
- Inherited Genetic Need
- Quality of your Current Sleep
- Circadian Rhythm (your individual 24-hour daily cycle)
- Daily Activities (caffeine, alcohol, smoking, recreational drugs and exercise)
The National Sleep Foundation suggests the following.
Teens generally need 8.5 to 9.25 hours per night.
Adults generally need 7 to 9 hours per night.
If you are working out, your body needs time to rest and recuperate so your muscles will grow.
To find out if you're getting enough sleep, take the following Sleep Test. Follow the three steps below. (While I understand trying to refrain from the things listed under step 1 may be impossible for some of you, you can still get a reasonable answer from the test if you follow steps 2 and 3 strictly.)
1. Begin the test on a Sunday and try to refrain from the following activities for 6 days.
- Don't drink alcohol.
- Don't smoke.
- Don't drink caffeine.
2. Go to bed and sleep at the same time each night. Try to get an uninterrupted 7 to 8 hours of sleep for the next six nights.
3. On Saturday morning, sleep in (don't set an alarm or wake-up call).
If you sleep longer on Saturday than you did during the week, you have a sleep debt and need to increase the rest you get every night. If you woke up at the same time and felt refreshed, congratulations! You're probably getting enough sleep.
If you can't fall asleep or stay asleep, leave the bedroom and engage in some other activity outside the bedroom. But don't fall asleep on the couch or lazy chair. When you get tired, go back to bed.
You may need to develop a ritual of things to do before it's time to sleep. Try making a list of things you need to do the next day to relax your mind. Researchers at Baylor University tracked 57 students in a sleep lab free of distractions. Half the students were instructed to make a list of everything they'd accomplished during the day. The other half were told to make a list of all the things they were supposed to do the next day.
The students who wrote a to-do list fell asleep about 9 minutes faster than those who didn't. It seems the act of getting those thoughts out of your head and onto paper, was enough to relax them and enable sleep sooner.
You might also try doing a little light reading or meditation. A hot bath helps some people fall asleep. Here are a few additional suggestions.
- Avoid naps, but if you must take one make it no longer than 30 minutes. Napping too long can leave you feeling sleepy the rest of the day and may prevent you from falling asleep at night.
- Don't drink caffeine 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.
- Don't use nicotine products at least 1 hour before bedtime.
- Don't drink alcohol 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.
- A light snack before bedtime may help promote sleep, but a large meal may inhibit it.
- Try not to drink too much before bedtime, so you don't have to get up so often and urinate during the night.
- Avoid working on computers, phones or tablets at least 2 hours before bedtime. It's believed the light from electronics can stimulate the brain and make it harder to fall asleep.
- Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and comfortable. For most people the ideal temperature for sleeping is between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Don't turn on bright overhead lights if you need to get up at night. Use small nightlights instead, they won't wake you up as much.
- Don't sleep with a pet. You may wake up from allergies or as the pet moves around in bed. It's better when your pets sleep on the floor.
If you follow all these suggestions and still don't wake up feeling refreshed and alert, or if you are sleepy during the day, you may have a sleep disorder and should consult your doctor or a sleep specialist.
Get enough sleep and you will look better, feel better and be more productive. Test yourself this week and start improving your life!
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