It has been said that ‘if sleep does not serve a vital function in the body and the evolutionary cycle – it is a colossal waste of time!’ Of course, sleep is vital to our existence and therefore our health. It is a complex process involving, the brain and neurochemicals like GABA, cytokines and hormones – interleukin-1beta (IL-1b), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFa) and growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH), which promote sleep.
Good quality sleep is absolutely vital for psychological and physical well-being. To get the most out of our sleep, both quantity and quality are important. When the length of time asleep is too short, or the quality of the sleep is compromised (and you wake unrefreshed), the body doesn’t have time to complete all of the sleep phases needed for muscle repair, memory consolidation and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite. This can lead to weight gain, blood glucose regulation problems and diabetes as well as metabolic syndrome. How much sleep do we need? And what can you do to get a good night’s sleep? Read on….
The amount of sleep required throughout the life cycle is outlined below:
Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range is 14-17 hours each day
Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range is 12-15 hours
Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range is 11-14 hours
Pre-schoolers (3-5): Sleep range is 10-13 hours
School-age children (6-13): Sleep range is 9-11 hour
Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range is 8-10 hours
Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours
Adults (26-64): Sleep range is 7-9 hours
Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours
Insomnia is defined as the persistent difficulty or the inability to fall and/or stay asleep. This condition may have no apparent cause but is often a symptom of an underlying medical or psychological condition e.g., anxiety, depression or pain. Ongoing sleep impairment interferes with normal daytime function.
Insomnia is classified as chronic if it persists for 4 weeks or longer. There are two common types of insomnia:
Delayed sleep onset or difficulty getting to sleep
Frequent awakenings and/or early morning arousal or difficulty staying asleep
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF TOO LITTLE SLEEP
The consequences of lack of sleep, particularly when prolonged, including
• Decreased concentration and diminished memory • Daytime drowsiness and impaired functioning/task performance • Less enjoyment of activities and social interaction • Increased likelihood of alcohol and other substance abuse • Headaches • Irritability and mood disorders • Waking unrefreshed in the morning, or insomnia despite feeling tired.• Anticipatory anxiety; insomnia can become a vicious cycle with bed and bedtime coming to represent restlessness and anxiety
IDEAS AND TIPS FOR A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
Go to bed at the same time every night – the body has an inbuilt clock that makes an individual sleepy when ready for bed
Get up from bed at the same time each day – by doing so the body clock remains synchronized with the outside environment. By sticking to a regular waking and sleeping time the body becomes adapted to it
Exercise regularly – studies have shown that regular exercise will encourage restful sleep. Exercise should be done early in the evening or in the morning. Do not exercise just before bedtime as this stimulates the body and makes it harder to fall sleep
A warm bath leads to an increase in body temperature and then a fall in temperature which promotes sleep.
Use essential oils in a diffuser or bath for a deeper relaxation state to prepare for rest. Essential oils include lavender, rose, or chamomile. If you do not have either, place a few drops on your pillow
PROTECT YOURSELF FROM BLUE LIGHT AT NIGHT
Avoid looking at bright screens beginning two to three hours before bed Avoid exposure to blue light from computers and phones before bed – use https://www.justgetflux.com to change blue light emissions to red light. Red light has the least power to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin production.
If you work a night shift or use a lot of electronic devices at night, consider wearing blue-blocking glasses or installing an app above that filters the blue/green wavelength at night.
A WORD ON CAFFEINE
Caffeine enters the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine and can have a stimulating effect as soon as 15 minutes after it is consumed. Once in your body, caffeine takes about 6 hours for one-half of the caffeine to be eliminated, suggesting that caffeine consumed up to 6 hours before bed may reduce total nightly sleep and reduce sleep quality. However, people’s sensitivity to caffeine varies and you may or may not find that caffeine affects your sleep.
A WORD ON ALCOHOL
Drinking alcohol before bed affects brain chemistry. Alcohol affects slow-wave sleep patterns called delta activity. That’s the kind of deep sleep that allows for memory formation and learning. At the same time, another type of brain pattern—alpha activity—is also turned on. Alpha activity doesn’t usually happen during sleep, but rather when you’re resting quietly. Together the alpha and delta activity in the brain after drinking may inhibit restorative sleep.