Catching Zzzs: The Art of Sleeping
Sunmarke’s School Nurse, Chris Mae Dayrit, puts together her key tips on achieving better sleep.
Humans spend 1/3 of their life sleeping. That is quite a lot when you think about it, but on an average it is around a third which differs depending on our age.
Just as important as eating healthy and exercising, a good night’s sleep is essential to our health. Unfortunately, with the overstimulating daily activities, lifestyle choices, work deadlines, and our obsession with technology, it seems to be getting harder and harder to achieve.
So, how much sleep should I be getting?
Sleep requirements vary depending on your stage of life, but the National Sleep Foundation recommends:
BUT…it is not just about quantity. It is about that quality too.
Achieving Better Sleep
1. Maintain a sleep schedule. Keep regular sleep and wake times.
Keep track of your usual going to bed and waking up time in the morning. Maintaining this pattern is essential for getting sufficient sleep—and that includes every night, including weekends. This also applies in children, it’s a good idea for weekends and holidays, as well as school days.
For the adults, going to bed late and trying to “catch up on sleep” over the weekend by sleeping for a longer amount of time actually causes something called social jet lag. It causes fatigue, mood problems, and an 11% increase in the likelihood of heart disease, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
2. No junk light near bedtime. Give your gadgets a break.
Light from screens like your TV, laptop, and phone can inhibit the secretion of melatonin which is one of the hormones most essential for restful sleep, according to Harvard Medical School research. The blue light from electronic devices ‘tricks’ our brain into thinking it is day. The brain produces cortisol (your body’s stress hormone) which keeps us awake, which takes 2 hours to wear off. If you need to read to make you drowsy, instead of scrolling through your gadgets, go for an old-fashioned book or magazine.
As for the kids, the same rule applies. Watching TV to go to sleep is something we don’t want our kids to get used to. This habit can easily develop so better take caution and check on what your child is watching.
3. No to caffeine and alcohol before bedtime.
Caffeine—from coffee, soda, tea, energy drinks, even chocolate—as many as six hours before bedtime, blocks the ability of adenosine to work, a sleep-promoting chemical. For children, it is best to avoid these things in the late afternoon and evening.
For adults, aside from caffeine, alcohol less than two hours before bedtime does make you feel drowsy, but once it metabolizes in your system it will disturb your sleep.
4. Hydration timing.
Drinking water consistently throughout the day rather than catching up on fluids at night reduces the risk of making a trip to the toilet and having a disrupted sleep. Avoid fluids 1–2 hours before bedtime and use the bathroom prior sleeping.
As for children, drinking more in the early part of the day tends to decrease thirst at night. Decreasing nighttime beverages and stopping fluids two hours prior to bedtime is also beneficial.
Having your daily dose of Vitamin D from natural light boosts not only your mood and alertness while awake, but also your ability to sleep at night. For parents, try to get the kids get as much natural light as possible during the day, especially in the morning. Bright light suppresses melatonin. This helps in keeping your child awake and alert during the day and sleepier towards bedtime. Getting a healthy dose of sunlight also counteracts the effects of blue light from electronics.
6. Right amount of sleep.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the proper amount of sleep for adults is between 7-9 hours. Anything too far outside of that range and you’ll experience difficulties functioning normally. Too much sleep will make you feel groggy and lifeless throughout the day, while lesser sleep makes us tired and less productive. Find the sweet spot on your sleeping hours and you’ll get on track.
7. Setting up the bedroom environment.
Quantity of sleep matters, but quality also counts. If you get eight hours of sleep but are tossing and turning all night, it won’t matter that you slept for the right amount of time, because your sleep wasn’t restful. Adjusting the bedroom environment can affect the quality of sleep. Finding the right kind of mattress that will make you more comfortable (weighted blankets for some) works a charm. Aside from that, keeping the bedroom cool (around 65 degrees) and making sure it’s totally dark in the room when you go to sleep can also help in attaining quality sleep. Same goes with the children, keeping the bedroom dark or putting a night light, soft sheets, room-darkening shades and adding a stuffed animal are also helpful for kids.
8. Park your worries in another room.
This is for the working adults. Your bedroom should be a sanctuary not an office! Don’t take your worries or your work into the bedroom. Dr. Robert Rosenberg, on his book Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day, described a technique called constructive worrying. At least three hours before bed, write down your concerns and your solutions. Then put them in a desk drawer and leave them there for the night.
9. Make sleep a priority.
Dr. Lewis Ehrlich, from his article Sleeping like a Champion, once said, “One of the great ironies of modern life is that we crave sleep when we wake up yet loathe it when it’s time has come. If you don’t change your attitude towards sleep, then you won’t get the good sleep you are craving.”
Changing your perspective about sleep makes a big difference. Making it a priority addresses it not only as a mere routine but as a vital aspect of our daily lives that should not be overlooked.
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Chris Mae Dayrit