What is the optimum amount of sleep?
It is acknowledged that the optimum amount of sleep for adult is between 7 and 9 hours per night. As we go from baby through to teenager our need for sleep reduces from 18 hours per night right down to 9 hours per night according to the National Sleep Association. When we are adults (18 years of age and up) we only require between 7 and 9 hours sleep per night, but even this is difficult to achieve.
What happens when we don’t get enough sleep?
Sleep reduces stress and anxiety so When the body is sleep deprived, it starts performing on high alert, the same way it would in a stressful situation. The heart rate increases, blood pressure increases and stress hormones are produced. With these stress hormones running around our body making us feel like we are in a life or death situation, we don’t respond to normal every day events very well. Our reactions can be blown massively out of proportion and it just sets us up for a bad day. This stress hormone also makes it difficult to sleep as the body is functioning on high alert and so it produces more of the hormones, it is a vicious cycle which all starts by not getting enough sleep.
Sleep reduces Inflammation
The hormones produced in the body when we aren’t getting enough sleep cause inflammation. Just like when we injure ourselves, our body produces inflammation to help protect and heel the injured body part. These hormones are produced when we are sleep deprived to alert us to the fact the body is in distress. Inflammation of the heart and other organs can result in heart attacks, strokes and other unthinkable health problems.
Makes you more alert
A good night’s sleep makes you feel more energized and ready for the next day. When we sleep well we feel good in general, which has a dramatic effect on everything we do, including how we react to situations. Being more alert means you make smarter decisions, your analysis of a situation is more effective, you can think about the outcome and into the future and generally just make better decisions. When we are tired our thinking and decision making is hindered by the fact we are tired and this is evident in the way we respond to certain everyday events and decision making.
Sleep helps your body repair itself
When we sleep it gives our body time to repair itself. During the day when we are up and awake, our body is constantly working, when we sleep it does not stop; the body is then in repair mode. If we don’t get enough sleep, the body doesn’t have the sufficient amount of time to repair the damage caused by wear and tear throughout the day. The term “protein is the building blocks of life” applies here, the body produces proteins that are used to repair the damage, with insufficient amounts of sleep the body doesn’t produce enough proteins and so damage goes unrepaired.
Sleep helps us lose weight
It is not just the fact that when we are asleep we don’t eat; there is more to it than that. There are two hormones in the body that are produced to signal hunger and then signal when we are full. If we are getting enough good sleep the body is producing the right amounts of these hormones at the right time and everything is ok. When we don’t get enough good sleep, our body doesn’t produce enough of the hormone to tell us we are full and it produces too much of the hormone to signal we are hungry. An imbalance of these two hormones causes us to eat too much and gain weight.
How to get a good night’s Sleep
Researchers suggest that we are not good sleepers. The demands of our jobs, the schedules we keep, our social networking activities, our communication devices and our eating and drinking habits, our family lives, all affect how efficient we are at night when we lay down to sleep.
Get a Sleep schedule - Our body works better when we have a routine and a schedule. This is difficult for people who work shift patterns or who have other obligations that prevent them from having a set schedule, but for most this is definitely doable. Try and go to bed at the same time each night, and get up at the same time each day. It is easy to let yourself stay up later and lay in on the weekends or on a day off, but this will affect your sleep for the following days. Stick to a schedule and it will make for better quality sleep times.
Get in a routine - Implement a relaxing bedtime routine, take a relaxing bath, listen to some music in bed, read a book or magazine etc. Try and reduce the use of computers, laptops, smart phones or other electronic devices that might stimulate your brain. The hour before bed time needs to be a relaxing one and following up work emails or watching an action movie does not relax the body. Try turning down the light or using a side lamp, this will help signal to your body that it is time to wind down and will help you feel relaxed before it is time to sleep.
Comfy and cosy Nightwear - It is vital that you are comfortable at night or you are just going to keep waking up. Choose Pyjamas that are warm and comfortable in the winter and switch to lighter pyjamas in the summer when it is hot. Your body temperature drops slightly at night, so it is worth taking this into account when considering sleeping attire. You will wake up during the night if you are too hot or too cold. It is suggested that you keep your room cool at night but sleep in cosy pyjamas and bedding, this has been researched and has resulted in better quality sleep. The addition of a hot water bottle or a blanket might also help in the winter.
Clean and comfortable bed - A freshly cleaned bed always seems to promote good sleep, or maybe that is just me. I tend to sleep much better the first night after changing the bedding, than any other night. It is important that your bed is comfortable to sleep in, that includes - the mattress, the duvet, the bedding and the pillows. Your bed should be right for you, some people like a soft bed, some like a firmer bed, some like one pillow, some like lots of pillows like me. There is no right or wrong answer, your bed must be comfortable to promote good quality sleep.
I hope this guide helps you to have a good night sleep, Toodlers!