Healthy Sleep 101

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This is a guest post by Hayden Entress.

When we think about living a healthy lifestyle, it’s easy to think about striving to have a balanced diet and consistent exercise schedule; however, do we ever think about the vital role our sleep plays in our health? Getting enough good (and high quality) sleep is essential for maintaining optimal health and well-being. 

Why Is Sleep So Important?

Sleep is essential for our concentration, productivity, and cognition. A restful mind is an optimized mind! As such, sleep plays an important role in our mental health. A study appearing in JAMA Psychiatry examining patterns of suicides over the last 10 years concludes that lack of sleep is a contributor in many of these deaths. Another study in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry suggests that people with sleep disorders are likely to show signs of depression. 

Sleep helps our bodies maintain a healthy weight and can aid in the weight loss process as well. Numerous studies show a link between poor sleep and obesity. Being sleep deprived can cause us to crave higher calorie foods. Those cravings for sweet, salty, and/or fatty foods often happen because our hunger hormones get out of balance when our body is chronically tired and in need of restful sleep. 

Getting restful and consistent sleep also lowers inflammation in the body. Sleep is the body’s time to repair itself. A body that is given adequate time to rest and recuperate will present with less inflammation than one that is chronically exhausted. As we now know, inflammation can lead to many diseases and problematic symptoms. Taking steps to create healthier sleep habits can therefore be very productive in the fight against chronic illness. 

Ideal Hours of Sleep

  • Newborns (0–3 months): 14–17 hours
  • Infants (4–12 months): 12–16 hours
  • Toddler (1–2 years): 11–14 hours
  • Preschool (3–5 years): 10–13 hours
  • School age (6–12 years): 9–12 hours
  • Teen (13–18 years): 8–10 hours
  • Adult (18–60 years): 7-plus hours
  • Adult (61–64 years): 7–9 hours
  • Adult (65+ years): 7–8 hours1 “National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Times.” Sleep Foundation, www.sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times.

Tips For More Restful Sleep

  • Stick to a sleep schedule. Try to wake up at the same time and go to bed at the same time. This will help your body get into a natural sleep rhythm.
  • Try to not hit the snooze button in the morning. Hitting snooze breaks up the sleep rhythm cycle – this robs us of the benefits of a few more minutes of sleep. Breaking this habit will help you wake up feeling more vibrant and rested.
  • Create your own bedtime routine. Incorporate relaxing rituals each night that will help your body relax. Repeating this ritual every night will help your body recognize that you are preparing for sleep. Your ritual might include a nice warm bath or shower, reading a book, meditating, or journaling. In addition, diffusing or spraying a lavender essential oil blend in your bedroom (or any essential oil you find calming) may help your mind and body relax even further.
  • Exercise daily! Including regular exercise will help your body naturally desire more sleep. 
  • Try going without daytime naps. If you absolutely need a nap, limit your rest to 30 minutes and avoid doing so in the evening. 
  • Eat your last meal 2-3 hours before you go to sleep. It is best to avoid caffeine in the evening as well.
  • Create a calming sleep environment. Evaluate how your room makes you feel. Do the colors stimulate or relax you? Try to keep your sleep space as neat as possible as a cluttered bedroom can make it difficult to unwind. 
  • Make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable and supportive. Having clean and soft sheets will also make your bed a more sleep-friendly place. 
  • Keep your bedroom at 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. It is easier for our bodies to sleep in a cool environment.
  • If you are having trouble falling asleep, try going into a different room and doing something calming until you feel tired. 
  • Avoid working, watching TV, and eating in your bed. The bed is for sleep and sleep alone!

2“6 Steps to Better Sleep.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 17 Apr. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/sleep/art-20048379.3“Why Is Sleep Important? 9 Reasons for Getting a Good Night’s Rest.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325353.4Bergland, Christopher. “Insomnia Increases Junk Food Cravings.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 7 Aug. 2013, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201308/insomnia-increases-junk-food-cravings.5Mandal, Dr. Ananya. “Sugar Cravings Worsened by Lack of Sleep.” News, 23 Aug. 2018, www.news-medical.net/news/20180111/Sugar-cravings-worsened-by-lack-of-sleep.aspx.

References   [ + ]

1.  “National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Times.” Sleep Foundation, www.sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times.
2. “6 Steps to Better Sleep.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 17 Apr. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/sleep/art-20048379.
3. “Why Is Sleep Important? 9 Reasons for Getting a Good Night’s Rest.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325353.
4. Bergland, Christopher. “Insomnia Increases Junk Food Cravings.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 7 Aug. 2013, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201308/insomnia-increases-junk-food-cravings.
5. Mandal, Dr. Ananya. “Sugar Cravings Worsened by Lack of Sleep.” News, 23 Aug. 2018, www.news-medical.net/news/20180111/Sugar-cravings-worsened-by-lack-of-sleep.aspx.

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