A good laugh and long sleep are the best cures in a doctor’s book- Irish proverb
How much sleep do we really need? To get the most out of sleep, both quantity and quality are important. Although research has not identified a magic number of hours, adults need an average of eight hours uninterrupted sleep to leave their bodies and minds rejuvenated for the next day. Individual sleep needs may vary. For example some individuals feel better with eight consecutive hours of sleep, while others sleep for six hours during the night and compliment that with a two hour nap during the day. Climate and culture may play a role in how a population sleeps.
The one third of our lives we spend sleeping affects how we look, feel, perform and greatly impacts the overall quality of our lives. Sleep contributes to a healthy immune system, regulates hormone secretion in the metabolic system, and directly affects the cardiovascular and central nervous systems. Healthy sleep therefore is a main factor in preventative medicine.
If the following statements apply to you, then you are probably getting adequate sleep:
1. It takes you 20 minutes or less to fall asleep once you are in bed.
2. You regularly sleep an average of 7-9 hours a day.
3. You do not have prolonged periods of “wake” after falling asleep.
4. You wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go, not hitting the snooze button repeatedly.
5. You feel alert and fully productive throughout the day.
6. Your partner has not reported any snoring, pause in breathing, restless legs or other disturbances in sleep.
If you are not getting adequate sleep, try consistently using the following tips to improve your sleep:
1. Maintain a regular sleep and wake schedule all week and even on weekends. This helps regulate your circadian clock and ensures sound sleep.
2. Practice a relaxing bedtime routine and repeat the same routine in the same order every night. This may include activities such as taking a bath or reading a book.
3. Wind down without electronics. Short wavelength blue light emitted from devices with self-luminous electronic displays such as TVs, tablets and cellphones, is the most suppressive to melatonin secretion. This delays sleep onset and affects sleep continuity.
4. Dim the lights one hour before bed and use darkening shades and curtains on bedroom windows. Research shows that night time exposure to bright light suppresses melatonin to daytime (awake) levels.
5. Avoid long naps in the afternoon if you are having difficulty sleeping at night. Naps however may be part of the culture and not adversely affect night time sleep.
6. Regular exercise helps regulate sleep however avoid vigorous exercise two hours before bed time.
7. Create a relaxing sleep environment, choose the comfortable level of firmness for your mattress and pillows, maintain a cool temperature between 60-65 degrees and surround yourself with scents that you enjoy.
8. Reduce external noise by using white noise like the sound of an air conditioner or fan softly humming in the background.
9. Avoid heavy meals, caffeine, smoking and alcohol late in the evening all of which can cause discomfort and disrupt sleep continuity.
10. Avoid associating your bedroom with anything other than sleep related activity. If you cannot sleep, get out of bed go to another room and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy and go back to bed.
If you are having unresolved sleep related issues, try to keep a sleep diary for two weeks and see a sleep specialist.
Information supplied by Ola Asayed, Manager Sleep Disorders Center at Sidra