Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being, and stress reduction, throughout life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect the mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety. Sleep also helps the brain function properly. While one sleeps, the brain is preparing for the next day. It’s forming new pathways to help you learn and remember information.
While sleep requirements vary from person to person, most healthy adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best, and children and teens need even more. Going to sleep and waking up at consistent times each day is valuable too. When we get fewer than seven hours, we’re impaired.When sleep regularly falls below six hours per 24, we are at an increased risk of health problems.
It’s not just the number of hours one sleeps that’s important—it’s the quality of those hours. If you give yourself plenty of time for sleep but still have trouble waking up in the morning or staying alert all day, you may not be spending enough time in the different stages of sleep.
Stages of Sleep: Each stage of sleep in ones’ sleep cycle offers different benefits. However, deep sleep (the time when the body repairs itself and builds up energy for the day ahead), mind and mood-boosting, or REM sleep, are especially important. You can also ensure you get more deep sleep by avoiding alcohol, nicotine, and being awaken during the night by noise or light. While improving your overall sleep will increase REM sleep, you can also try sleeping an extra 30 minutes to an hour in the morning, when REM sleep stages are longer.
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or cause you to wake up too early and not be able to get back to sleep. You may still feel tired when you wake up. Insomnia can sap not only your energy level and mood but also your health, work performance and quality of life.
Insomnia: Not having enough sleep, or insomnia, can result in one or more of the following conditions:
- increased irritability, depression or anxiety
- difficulty paying attention, focusing on tasks or remembering
- less concentration at work or school
- ongoing worries about sleep
- more likely to have an automobile accident.
Signs and symptoms of insomnia:
– waking up often during the night
– having trouble going back to sleep
– being tired on waking up
– being sleepy during the day
Causes of insomnia include anxiety, significant stress, depression, chronic, or long-term pain asthma, arthritis, and heart failure, or substance use such as alcohol.
When insomnia is not caused by a medical problem, it’s important to discuss that with your doctor. The following may also be helpful for all persons with insomnia:
– removing or decreasing stress producing situation
– practicing various stress reducing approaches, including relaxation exercises
– changing one’s sleeping pattern
– changing the sleeping environment, such as no TV or bright lights in the bedroom, etc.
Napping: Taking one or more naps doesn’t make up for lost hours of sleep, even if the total hours of napping add up to 8 hours. This is because the best sleep includes a period during which the person sleeping has REM sleep. It takes a few hours of sleep to reach the REM state. It is also important for the person to stay in REM sleep for some time. If the person has to get up from a nap, the period of REM sleep may have been too short. Also, if he or she returns to napping later, that nap might not last long enough for REM sleep to occur.
It’s important for a person to see his or her doctor if one of the following two things happens, because they could both be signals of an important medical problem:
(1) A change in the normal sleeping pattern develops, or
(2) There is a long-term problem with insomnia.
A number of physical problems can interfere with ones’ ability to fall or stay asleep. For example, arthritis and other conditions that cause pain, backache, or discomfort can make it difficult to sleep well. Certain medications such as decongestants, steroids and some medicines for high blood pressure, asthma, or depression can cause sleeping difficulties as a side effect.
It is a good idea to talk to a physician or mental health provider about any sleeping problem that persists for longer than a few weeks. Remember, having adequate sleep is key to stress reduction.
Remember the Health Power motto: Knowledge + Action = Power!