Are you trying to get more out of your day by getting by on 4 or 5 hours of sleep each night? Or are you like one out of every three people who suffers from insomnia or other sleep problems?
Everyone feels better after a good night’s sleep. But did you know that you need sleep so that you can function at your optimal level both physically and mentally? For example, a good sleep helps boost immune system which helps prevent you from getting sick and helps your body heal from illness if you do get sick.
A good sleep also helps your brain to recuperate from all of the learning and other activities that have taken place during your day. And a good sleep can help you learn and retain information by consolidating your memories.
So a good sleep isn’t just a good feeling…a good sleep is good for you. Without a good sleep, you simply cannot function at your optimal level.
Sleep Needs Change As You Age
So just how much sleep do you think you need? We’ve all been told we should get eight hours of sleep each night, but does this hold true for everyone? And is it the same no matter how old or active you are?
The average amount of sleep that a person needs changes over their lifetime. For example infants may need as much as 14 or 15 hours of sleep. Toddlers, preschoolers, and school age children don’t need quite that much sleep, but they still need a lot more than adolescents or adults. And the most senior of us may need less than 8 hours sleep, but in our senior years we’re also usually a little bit less active during the day than we are as adults or adolescents.
Effects Of Sleep Deprivation: Sleep Debt
Loss of sleep can result in “sleep debt.” For example after as little as days of inadequate sleep, you start to fall asleep sooner than normal, and stay asleep longer than if you were getting good sleep. Some of the other effects of sleep deprivation include:
- increased irritability
- difficulty concentrating
- increased physical and emotional tension
- memory impairments
- being overly sensitive to criticism
- experiencing mood changes particularly more anxiety and low mood or depression
- and a weakened immune system.
What Affects Your Sleep?
We’ve spoken about what can happen if you don’t get adequate sleep, now let’s turn our attention to the kinds of things that can affect your sleep and prevent you from getting the good quality sleep and rest that you need.
Sleep problems can be caused by many factors. Some sleep problems stem from medical conditions and these should be brought to the attention of a medical doctor.
Some sleep problems arise because of things that disturb your sleep environment, like sound…temperature (for example being too warm or too cool) and light.
And some sleep problems arise because of things to do with your behaviour and your well-being…like stress…or lack of exercise…or things that you’re consuming…or from having irregular sleep habits like going to bed at different times throughout the week.
Ten Quick Tips to A Better Sleep
1. Keep regular sleep hours.Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time every day will programme your body to sleep better. Choose a time when you’re likely to feel tired and sleepy.
2. Create a restful sleeping environment.Your bedroom should be a peaceful place for rest and sleep. Temperature, lighting and noise should be controlled so that your bedroom environment helps you to fall (and stay) asleep. If you have a pet that sleeps in the room with you, consider moving it somewhere else if it often disturbs you in the night.
3. Make sure your bed is comfortable.It’s difficult to get restful sleep on a mattress that’s too soft or too hard, or a bed that’s too small or old.
4. Exercise regularly.Moderate exercise on a regular basis, such as swimming or walking, can help relieve some of the tension built up over the day. Make sure that you don’t do vigorous exercise, such as running or the gym, too close to bedtime, though, as it may keep you awake.
5. Cut down on caffeine.Cut down on caffeine in tea, coffee, energy drinks or colas, especially in the evening. Caffeine interferes with the process of falling asleep and prevents deep sleep. Instead, have a warm, milky drink or herbal tea.
6. Don’t over-indulge.Too much food or alcohol, especially late at night, can interrupt your sleep patterns. Alcohol may help you to fall asleep initially, but it will disrupt your sleep.
7. Don’t smoke.Nicotine is a stimulant. Smokers take longer to fall asleep, they wake up more frequently, and they often have more disrupted sleep.
8. Try to relax before going to bed.Have a warm bath, listen to quiet music or do some gentle yoga to relax the mind and body.
9. Write away your worries.If you tend to lie in bed thinking about everything you have to do tomorrow, set aside time before bedtime to make plans for the next day. The aim is to avoid doing these things when you’re in bed, trying to sleep.
10. If you can’t sleep,don’t lie there worrying about it. Get up and do something you find relaxing until you feel sleepy again, then go back to bed.
Note: If lack of sleep is persistent and affecting your daily life, make an appointment to see your GP.
For more information about energy, fatigue, and sleep, the following resources may be helpful.
- Canadian Sleep Society. https://css-scs.ca/
- National Sleep Foundation: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/
- Sleep Apnea. Government of Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/chronic-diseases/sleep-apnea.html
- Resources and prevention strategies to manage Fatigue in the workplace. Public Services Health and Safety Association. https://www.pshsa.ca/fatigue/
- Fatigue Answer Sheet. Canadian Occupational Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/psychosocial/fatigue.html