Getting Enough Sleep
Do you remember kindergarten when we were told to take out our mats and take a nap? Do you long for those days as much as I do? I can remember being very angry with my mother when she would make my younger sister and me go to our room and take a nap. I would lay there and wish that Superman would come through the window and rescue me – yes, rescue me! From a nap! As I write this blog today, I wonder “What was I thinking?” In preparing to write on the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, I learned a great deal. I learned that, while naps are optional, a good night’s sleep is not.
Most healthcare providers would agree that sleep is essential. Our physical and mental health depends on getting enough sleep. One survey from the National Sleep Foundation showed that at least 60% of adults in the United States have some type of sleep problem at least a few nights every week. The NSF goes on to report that eight hours a night is still the average amount that most people need for recuperative sleep. What that tells me is that cutting back to five or six hour of sleep in order to have more time to get other things done is going to eventually backfire.
According to Helpguide.com, the question, “Who can afford to spend so much time sleeping?” is answered with, “…you can’t afford not to”. Harvard Health Publications agrees, reporting that there are six major reasons to prioritize getting enough sleep:
- Learning and memory – people who get enough sleep actually learn better and complete tasks more efficiently – they do better at school and at work.
- Weight and metabolism – chronic sleep deprivation can actually cause weight gain.
- Safety – “sleep debt” can impact decision making that results in accidents.
- Mood – lack of sleep can produce irritability and moodiness.
- Heart health – some studies indicate that chronic sleep disorders may contribute to various heart problems.
- Disease – lack of sleep can impact our immune systems.
The American Psychological Association has some ideas to help those who are struggling to overcome sleep issues:
- Keep a regular sleep/wake schedule if possible.
- Avoid caffeine four to six hours before bed, and minimize caffeine usage during the day.
- Don’t smoke, especially close to bedtime or if you awaken in the middle of the night.
- Exercise regularly.
- Try to reduce noise, light, and excessive hot or cold temperatures while you sleep.
- Develop a regular time to go to bed every night.
- Try and wake up without the alarm clock.
Based on the above information, it’s pretty clear that getting enough sleep is quite important. As one report stated, “sleep is essential” for our bodies and our brains to operate well. It may be true that a nap every now and then would be nice, but we cannot skip out on getting a good night’s sleep. I hope some of the above suggestions can be of help to anyone dealing with this.
Karen Williams, LIMHP is a Mental Health provider at CHI Health.