- Dr. Foster
Have You Had Enough Sleep Today ?
Are you tired, sleepy, always chasing sleep?
If you put yourself in a quiet, dark, cool room right now and closed your eyes for 5 min, would you fall sleep?
If you answered yes, you may be part of the 30% of sleep deprived Americans.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lack of adequate sleep is strongly associated with heart disease, Type II diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.
Inadequate sleep also contributes to other health hazards including death while driving. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 40% of drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel. Truck drivers average less than 5 hours sleep per day and account for more than 50% of truck driver related deaths. For every one truck driver death, there are 3-4 non-truck driver related deaths.
So how much sleep do you need?
Slight differences are reported between the National Sleep Foundation and CDC and some individuals may need more or less, but recommended ranges are as follows:
Newborn 0-3 months 12-17 hours
Infant 4-12 months 12-16 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
Toddler 1-2 years 11-14 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
Preschool 3-5 years 10-13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
School Age 6-13 years 9-12 hours per 24 hours
Teen 13-18 years 8-10 hours per 24 hours
Adult 18+ years 7 or more hours per night
You may be thinking…"Well, that’s what is recommended but what do I really need?".
One way to see how much sleep you need is to try this self-assessment when you don’t have to wake up for any particular reason and you are free to sleep in without an alarm. Allow yourself a few hours without digital media (television, smartphone, laptop, etc) before going to bed. Allow yourself to wake up the next morning without an alarm. Take note of how many hours you sleep. Repeat a few times to take an average of how may hours your body sleeps.
I used to think I only needed 5-6 hours of sleep to function adequately. I noticed when I traveled and stayed in hotels, I would often go to sleep about midnight and awoke between 8:00 and 8:30 am if the alarm didn’t go off. I began to see if this was a regular “hotel stay” occurrence. To my surprise, it was. I compared the hotel environment to my home environment and noticed several differences. First, I was allowing myself a “non-alarm” wake up routine, allowing my body to sleep as long as needed and to wake up naturally. Second, the hotel room was very dark due to the blackout curtains compared to my bedroom which had an outside facing door with light penetrating blinds. Third, the hotel room tended to be rather cool, approximately 67-70 degrees. At home, I was typically throwing blankets off and waking up in them middle of the night because I was too hot with the thermostat set between 74-76. Fourth, my hotel pillow was very comfortable and supportive compared to my worn out pillow at home that had gone flat and needed to be folded in half to give me enough support. Unfortunately, it flattened out again as I moved in my sleep and did not provide any support by the time morning came around. By making adjustments to my home bedroom environment to encourage a more restful sleep experience (try to go to sleep earlier so I could awaken without an alarm, cover the door with a blanket to block light, lower the thermostat to at least 70 F, and buy a new supportive pillow), I was able to improve the effectiveness of my sleep at home.
With better sleep, what kind of benefits can you expect?
Sleep allows the body to recover from the day's work. It provides time to rebuild resilience for the next day's stresses. It allows our brains to process learning and secure memories from short to long term storage. It allows our bodies time to process nutrients and remove waste.
According to Matthew Walker, PhD and author of Why We Sleep, productive sleep will allow us to live longer, have greater memory, greater creativity, improved weight management, decreased cancer risk, lower dementia and stroke risk and a better mood.
If you are having health challenges in these areas, a prescription for a good night's sleep may be in order.