Sleep: Are You Getting Enough?

By Jinny Hopp, former Human Development Specialist, Jasper County,

University of Missouri Extension

Research in the area of sleep has determined that as many as two-thirds of Americans lack enough sleep. A National Sleep Foundation poll found that 43 percent of Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 say they rarely or never get a good night’s sleep during the week. More than 60 percent say they experience a sleep problem (such as snoring, waking in the night or waking up too early) every night or almost every night. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has called insufficient sleep a “public health epidemic.”

Contrary to common belief, sleep is not a time when the mind and body shuts down. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “sleep is an active period in which a lot of important processing, restoration, and strengthening occurs.” Sleep serves critical functions and it is necessary for optimal health and well-being.

Over time, lack of sleep can lead to stress, depression and mental and physical exhaustion. We know that when we are not well-rested we do not perform at our best. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Some people may need as few as five hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep. Children require even more sleep. Both children and adults can use naps to get the total number of hours of rest they need. The focus here is on ways that adults can meet their need for rest.

Here are some tips for improving your sleep:

  • Most people find that the conditions of the room are important to sleeping well. Usually people want the room dark, cool and quiet. Window coverings, fans and noise blockers can be used to achieve these requirements when needed.
  • Some people use a nap to get the extra sleep they need. Experts in the field of sleep suggest limiting an adult nap to less than 45 minutes and taking it before 4:00 p.m., to ensure that you can also get a full nights’ sleep.
  • Watch what you eat and drink in the evening. Foods and drinks that are high in protein, caffeine or sugar can keep you awake. Liquids can cause you to have to get up in the night.
  • Exercise has been found to be beneficial for sleep, especially for increasing quality of sleep and decreasing certain problems such as sleep apnea. Even small amounts of exercise during the day could help. It is no longer believed that you have to exercise at a particular time of day in order to see this benefit. Find what works best for you, but for most people exercise at any time is better for sleep than no exercise at all.
  • Avoid excitement before bedtime. This is not the time to begin thinking about the big project at work or to open the statement from your stock broker. Instead, try reading, taking a warm bath or shower or adopting some other routine to help you relax before bedtime.
  • When traveling, try to keep your normal eating and sleeping routine. You may find it easier to adjust to a different time zone by adapting your sleeping times before you leave home to be the same as your destination. Some people plan for a day of rest after a long trip to give their bodies time to adjust to the changes.
  • Make sure you have a bed and mattress that helps you sleep comfortably.

Good, consistent sleep is critical for our physical, mental and emotional health. Feeling well-rested and functioning at our best are the rewards for good sleep habits.

If these suggestions do not help to improve your quality of sleep, it may be time to schedule an appointment with your family doctor to examine other options for getting the rest you need. Medical providers should be consulted when sleep problems begin to interfere with functions of daily living for anyone.

Source: National Sleep Foundation, http://www.sleepfoundation.org/.