Are you getting enough sleep?
Just two generations ago, the average adult slept about nine hours per night — a stark contrast to the six hours or less that one-third of the population gets today. Moms with babies who aren’t yet sleeping through the night often get even less sleep.
Busier lifestyles — including managing our children’s hectic schedules — have stretched many too thin, resulting in sleep deprivation, which can negatively affect our physical and mental health on a daily basis.
Lack of sleep can cause unintentional daytime sleeping and drowsiness, clouded thinking, poor judgment and a decrease in our “emotional resilience” which is our ability to cope during stressful situations.
Sleep is the number one thing that can positively impact every aspect our life, including relationships, performance, mood, physical health and mental health. In fact, it’s easy to misjudge our abilities on anything less than eight hours of sleep.
How much sleep do we need?
Sleep repairs the body, clears your head, helps you process adversity and takes the edge off of emotionally painful experiences. The amount of sleep a person needs to tackle all of these daily experiences depends upon age.
The average person needs:
• 11-13 hours for 3- to 5-year-olds
• 10-11 hours for 5- to 10-year-olds
• 8.5-9.5 hours for 10- to 17-year-olds
• 7-8 hours for adults
How to get the sleep you need
With so many stressors and responsibilities throughout the day, finding the time to get a good night’s rest can be challenging. Here are some things you can do to “add time” to your sleep schedule.
• Make sleep a top priority for you and your whole family.
• Try to get a four-hour block of sleep as often as possible, even if you’re not getting a full eight hours.
• Go to bed at the same time each night, and get up at the same time each day.
• Avoid making evenings the time to get things done so you’re not too stimulated at bed time.
• Consider purchasing a dawn-simulating alarm clock, which slowly adds light to the room as your wake-up time approaches (setting your circadian rhythm to daytime).
• Replace white flour, white sugar and other foods with poor nutritional content with high-protein foods, such as nuts, seeds, cheese and lean meats.
• Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
• Enjoy moderate exercise daily, such as a 20- to 30-minute walk.
• Try lavender tea or lavender topical oil, which can help reduce sleep disturbances.
Above all, give yourself permission to make a good night’s sleep a priority. It’s one of the most important things you can do for your health and for the health of your family.
Lisa Brown is a certified nurse midwife with Mayo Clinic Health System.