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Are you getting enough sleep? Are you getting enough good quality sleep?
What difference would it make to your health and well being if you improved your sleeping habits and woke up rested and refreshed, instead of feeling that the weight of the world was on your shoulders?
Do You Sleep Enough?
So, how much sleep do we actually need? The answer varies depending on our age. As babies and infants, we sleep a great deal – up to nineteen hours a day, although if you are wakened by a baby crying in the night, every night, this may be hard to believe! As we grow older, our need for sleep decreases. For example, children from three to five years old need up to thirteen hours, whereas fourteen to seventeen years old need up to ten hours.
An adult needs from seven to nine hours of sleep, though they can use as much as ten hours and as little as five hours. Sleep, like many other aspects of our health, does depend to an extent on the individual.
If you feel alert, fit, and healthy throughout the day, then chances are you are getting enough sleep at night. Don’t worry that “I’m not getting enough sleep” if you feel good in other respects. Many people like to take a short nap around lunchtime, and this is perfectly fine if it fits into your schedule. In many cultures, it’s the norm. But if you feel very tired during the day, fall asleep in your armchair after dinner, nod off during meeting – then chances are that the amount of sleep you are getting isn’t right for you and you should really consider how to get a better sleep at night.
Sleeping and Aging
Sleeping and aging is a big issue for some people. Sleep patterns may vary when we no longer have a job to get us out of bed, and some older people have fears of the night, meaning that they sleep during the day and are awake at night. They also may find themselves napping during the day because they are bored, making it hard to sleep at night. The advice for older people is the same as for everyone, and we list how to get a better sleep at night below.
Good Sleeping Hygiene Practice
- Ensure that your bedroom is well ventilated and the right temperature. An airless, overheated bedroom makes it hard to sustain good sleep, as does a room that is too cold and drafty. Darkness is important – consider blackout curtains if you have a lot of ambient light in your environment.
- Bed covers should be comfortable and of course, clean. Some people like to be weighed down with a mountain of covers, while other people barely need a sheet. If you want weight without too much warmth, you can buy specially designed weighted blankets which give you the comfort of weight without heating you up too much while makes it easier to fall asleep, and provides a healthier sleep
- Ensure that you get at least a little fresh air and exercise during the day. A walk around the block with the dog or even a simple stroll around the garden after dinner is a great idea.
- Make sure your bed and pillows are comfortable. Experiment with using fewer pillows – difficulty sleeping can sometimes be caused by neck strain due to having pillows that are too high. If you need to sleep a little upright, make sure that the upper part of your body is raised, not just your neck and shoulder.
- Avoid distractions in the bedroom, in particular, the TV, your laptop, computer games, or tablet should not go with you to bed. The temptation when you wake in the night “just to check my messages” can lead to hours of wakefulness.
- It’s fine to read yourself to sleep with a book or e-reader. Choose something calming and a little dull for your bedtime reading – the latest psycho-thriller is not ideal!
- Try to make your last meal a few hours before bedtime to ensure to get better sleep at night. Some people like a milky drink before bed, others a little snack of some kind. If you have problems with getting up in the night to pee then make this last drink an hour or so before bedtime.
- Some people find it helpful to sprinkle a little lavender oil on their pillow or use diffuser/humidifier to aid in restful sleep.
- If you have to get up early, set an alarm that you trust. Most cell phones have a nice graduated wake-up sequence, starting with a gentle tone. This means that you don’t jolt awake out of deep sleep.
- Have a regular bedtime and wake up time. It’s fine to laze around in bed, but make sure your sleeping and waking hours stay the same, even at weekends.
- Don’t lie awake worrying. Have a notepad by your bed, and note down that worry that wakes you in the middle of the night. Promise yourself that you will think about that tomorrow.
Sleep deprivation is one of the leading causes of minor health and wellness problems. We pay attention to diet, exercise, and health practitioner visits, yet many of us ignore the importance of Dr. Sleep. “I can sleep when I’m dead”, people say, yet if you don’t get good, adequate sleep throughout your life, that day may come sooner than you would wish!