Sleeping Better

Sleeping Better
We spend one third of our lives in bed. Let's take a look at how sleep impacts the other important areas of life.

1. How much sleep do I need?

  • Some people admit to only needing four or five hours of sleep. While they may suffer no obvious repercussions, we recommend you sleep as much as you need to feel rested. In general you should sleep about eight hours a day. However, you may find seven hours adequate to your needs and your energy level. If you feel well rested, energized and alert than it's safe to say that you've had enough sleep.
2. Do older people need less sleep?
  • Even though the elderly may have more difficulty sleeping, they still need restorative sleep to combat the effects of illness and aging. Sickness, poor sleep habits and inactivity all contributes to sleep disturbances and disorders. Eight hours is the ideal amount of sleep a senior should be getting per night. See "Sleep and Seniors" for more on the sleep problems seniors face and advice on how the elderly can get more shut-eye.
3. Do teens require less sleep? How about college students?
  • It's a misconception that teens require fewer hours of sleep. Although, they do seem to get less because of their hectic schedules, teenagers require a minimum of eight hours of sleep a night? ideally ten hours would be best for complete health. With the right amount of sleep, teenagers can feel better and therefore do better in school. Parents can help their teens understand the importance of sleep and help them establish a regular bedtime routine.
  • College students aren't known for getting much sleep, but they too need eight hours to function best and to succeed. As a college student it may be difficult to manage one's time, but sleep is just as important as every other school-related activity.
4. What can shift workers do to make sure they receive adequate rest?
  • More than 22 million Americans are shift workers and that number is growing each year. Many shift jobs don't allow you to take a nap. For those that do however, it's vital that you do take a ten-minute rest. As a shift worker it's important to be alert and functioning at all hours. To be at your best try and get at least six to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.
5. What can I do to sleep more deeply and restfully?
  • A good quality mattress is the first step to a more deep and restful sleep. However, there are other steps that you can take to sleep well. Try to establish a bedtime routine that includes relaxing activities, such as reading or yoga exercises. Computer games and television can relax you as long as you observe a regular bedtime. Do not exercise heavily before bed because the adrenaline may keep you awake. If you have to eat before bedtime, make sure to eat something light. Some foods may also help put you to sleep such as warm milk, turkey, bananas and peanut butter.
6. What difference does it make if I miss a few hours' sleep?
  • On occasion you can get by without the required eight hours of sleep per night. But if you regularly miss sleep you are headed for a host of health problems and other issues. In addition to the fatigue you would feel on a constant basis, you could also experience memory loss, irritability, difficulty concentrating and a general lack of energy.
7. What if I'm too busy to sleep? Can I get by with just the occasional nap?
  • There may be a period in your life when you need to stay awake for days at a time- a rush period at the office, military duty, caring for someone who is ill or even caring for a new baby. Beyond that, however, there is no such thing as "too busy to sleep." If you are regularly missing out on sleep you may need to consider the impact it has on your life. Sleep regenerates you so that you can give 100% to the areas of your life that are most important.
8. What are the rules for napping during the day? My office allows sleep breaks.
  • Many employers are discovering that employees perform better when rested and some have set up "nap rooms." However, you should probably limit that snooze to ten minutes at the office. In general you can nap during the day, however if you sleep more than an hour you may have difficulty sleeping at night. Twenty minutes of sleep during the day can refresh you completely.
9. Can I just sleep in on the weekends if I don't sleep well during the week?
  • Sleeping late on Saturdays can actually throw off your sleep schedule and make it more difficult for you to get the restful sleep you need. An occasional lazy Sunday morning is fine. However, if you are constantly sleeping in on the weekends, it may be a sign that your circadian rhythm is off and that you have accumulated a "sleep debt," that sleeping in will not erase. It may also indicate that it might be time to take a look at your schedule and habits to see if you can better accommodate your body's need for sleep.
10. What is sleep debt?
  • When you sleep only four hours a night your body feels the lack of sleep and even if you sleep a solid eight hours the next night you are still four hours behind. It's just like owing a loan to the bank, you may keep up the minimum payments but the interest just keeps piling up.
11. What exactly is a sleep disorder and what are the symptoms?
  • If you have a regular sleep routine, a good sleeping environment and a quality mattress, you should be on your way to dreamland. However, if you still feel tired and have difficulty falling asleep, you may have a sleep disorder. If you wake up in the middle of the night and feel choking sensations, you may have sleep apnea, which causes you to stop breathing 20-60 times per night. Insomnia is the persistent inability to sleep no matter what methods you try. Narcolepsy may cause you to fall asleep 10 to 20 times a day no matter what you may be doing. There are varied symptoms for each sleep disorder. You should consult a doctor if you experience any unusual sleep patterns, excessive and uncontrollable sleepiness, or unusual sleep disturbances. Your doctor may then refer you to a sleep disorder specialist.
12. What exactly does sleep do for the body?
  • Sleep repairs the body. When you are ill the first thing doctors prescribe is rest. Sleep allows the body to heal its wounds, maintain all the inner organs and keeps the skin refreshed. Skin care experts say that getting enough sleep is one of the best ways to keep skin looking healthy, and young. Sleep also allows us to dream, which is vital to our well-being. Dreaming is traditionally associated with REM sleep, which is also our deepest sleep. This type of sleep is shown to be the most refreshing and satisfying, allowing us to deeply relax and wake up at our mental and physical peak.

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