Written by Kristine Braastad under the direction and review of Marjorie Zastrow, former SDSU Extension Nutrition Field Specialist.
The month of May is designated as Better Sleep Month. In honor of Better Sleep Month this article will explore ways in which our sleep can improve. Sleep is basic human need. Everyone needs sleep to survive and reach their fullest potential. However, often times sleep is the first thing that is sacrificed in a busy schedule.
How much sleep do individuals need a night? According to the National Sleep Foundation that the number of hours varies across ages. The National Sleep Foundation recommends: 11 to 13 hours for Preschoolers, 10 to 11 for school aged children, 8.5 to 9.5 for teenagers, and 7 to 9 for adults. There really is no magic number that will fit everyone’s sleep habits and sleep schedule. The right number of hours of sleep is an individual characteristic of our bodies.
Research has shown that too little sleep can result in inhibited productivity and memory impairment. Lack of sleep can also lead to serious health consequences, such as increased BMI, increased risk of diabetes and heart disease, and an increased risk for psychological disorders. A lack of sleep can also pose risks to your safety as well as others’ safety, such as drowsy driving and decreased ability to pay attention or take in new information.
On the other hand, sleeping too much has been associated with increased morbidity (illness or accidents) and mortality (death). Currently there is little research to suggest that our bodies will sleep past what they require.
Finding the right amount of sleep for individuals will take some experimentation. The key is to see how your body responds to more or less sleep. You might find that sleeping 9 hours is ideal for your functioning or that 7 hours is the maximum number of hours you need in a night. It is important for individuals to find their optimum number in order to reach their optimum functioning in a day.
The National Sleep Foundation has published a list of helpful tips for getting sleep.
- Be consistent. Go to sleep at the same time and wake-up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
- Have a relaxing bedtime ritual. Like taking a bath or reading a book an hour before you expect to fall asleep.
- Create an effective sleep environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. Everyone has different levels of comfort.
- Use your bedroom only for sleep.
- If you can’t sleep, go into another room and go something relaxing until you feel tired.
- Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime.
- Exercise regularly.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol products close to bedtime and give up smoking.
The National Sleep Foundation will provide additional information on sleeping tips or sleep habits.