Why Is Sleep So Essential?

On average, we cycle through all stages of sleep every 90 minutes. So, if a person sleeps for 8 hours, there will be five opportunities for physical and psychological repair.

If sleep is disrupted over a long period of time, the necessary physical and psychological repair cannot occur, which can lead to:

  • Physical repair (e.g. torn muscles, organ cleansing)
  • Psychological repair (e.g. laying down memories, working through anxiety)

On February 2, 2015, The National Sleep Foundation (NSF), issued its new recommendations for appropriate sleep durations. The report recommends wider appropriate sleep ranges for most age groups.

A summary of the new recommendations:

  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

Common sleeping problems are often caused by bad habits reinforced over years or even decades.

‘Sleep hygiene’ means habits which help you have a good night’s sleep.

Sleep Do’s And Dont’s

Do

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time each day
  • Get regular exposure to outdoor or bright lights, especially in the late afternoon
  • Exercise regularly
  • Keep the bedroom dark and the temperature comfortable
  • Use your bed only for sleep and sex – if you treat your bedroom like a second lounge room, for watching TV or talking to friends on the phone, for example, your mind will associate your bedroom with activity.
  • Use a relaxation exercise just before going to sleep
  • Limit your alcohol intake – it may initially promote falling asleep, however can cause awakenings during the night, and disturbs the rhythm of sleep patterns, so you won’t feel refreshed in the morning
  • Turn off screens (laptops, mobile phones) – light from electronic devices can disrupt the body’s natural occurring circadian rhythm, increasing alertness and suppressing the release of the hormone melatonin, which is important for regulating our sleep-wake cycle. Have a transition period, about 15 to 30 minutes, of technology-free time before you go into your bedroom for sleep
  • Try scheduling a half hour of ‘worry time’ well before bed if you are a chronic bedtime worrier. Once you go to bed, remind yourself that you’ve already done your worrying for the day

Do Not:

  • Lie in bed awake for more than 15 minutes – get up and engage in a quiet activity – return to bed when sleepy (repeat this strategy as often as necessary)
  • Nap during the day
  • Drink caffeine 4 – 6 hours before bedtime
  • Smoke cigarettes close to bedtime, and upon night waking – nicotine is a stimulant. The side effects, including accelerated heart rate and increased blood pressure, are likely to keep you awake for longer
  • Eat a heavy meal too close to bedtime
  • Engage in mentally stimulating activity just before bed – e.g. action movies, stimulating conversation
  • Use sleeping pills, unless it is a temporary last resort and under strict medical advice
  • Exercise just before going to bed

If you have tried and failed to improve your sleep, you may like to consider professional help, through Acacia Connection EAP counselling, your doctor or a sleep disorder clinic.

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