Sleep Well, Be Well!

May 19th, 2014 | By Katie No Comments

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Sleep deprivation is an epidemic sweeping the country. In Georgia alone, 28.2% of children have not received enough sleep or rest in the past month. This is due somewhat to the fact that people place little value on sleep, especially when there is work to be done or fun times to be had. However, your brain and body need sleep in order to function properly. Keep reading here to gain an overview of the importance of sleep, as well as tips and tricks to help you and your loved ones sleep better throughout the night!

It is important for everyone to get two to three REM (Rapid Eye Movement) cycles each night. You can think of REM sleep as the deepest sleep of the night. It’s when the brain repairs itself and stores memories observed throughout the day. Waking up without or during the last REM impacts body functions in varied ways, including unsteadiness (balance problems), blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and impaired judgment.

When you don’t follow a natural cycle of sleep, including REM cycles, your body is thrown off its circadian rhythm. A circadian rhythm is an internal biological clock that follows a 24-hour cycle. When the sun rises, the brain registers light as time to wake up and start the day. When the sun sets, the brain is biologically scheduled to go to sleep. So, for instance … when you sleep late, you lose daylight on your biological clock, so as day turns to night you are awake for longer periods of time. This throws off your natural sleep cycle.

In order to get a good night’s sleep, people (of all ages!) must practice good sleep hygiene. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) describes sleep hygiene as the promotion of regular sleep. There are many ways to improve your sleep hygiene. One way is to create a sleep routine in which you go to bed at the same time every night and wake up around the same time every morning. This will program your body to know when it should be tired and when it is ready to be wakened in the morning.

Another way to get a good night’s rest is to keep your room ‘sleep ready.’ This includes keeping your room dark, quiet, and cool. Make sure to remove all electronics from your room, such as TVs, computers, videogames, cell phones, and music. Try to avoid big meals before going to bed so that your body isn’t trying to digest foods as you try to get some shuteye.

After a good night’s sleep, kids are found to have more attention, more creativity, enhanced moods, more success getting along with friends and family, and greater ability to problem-solve. Without enough sleep, children become more forgetful, worse learners, more grumpy, less patient, and less able to listen carefully. In addition to these milder effects of sleep deprivation, there are also more serious effects such as increased prevalence of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and depression. Research has also shown that teenagers who do not get enough sleep are more likely to partake in risky behaviors such as smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and being sexually active at a much younger age.

You may be asking yourself, how much sleep is enough? Interestingly, the amount of sleep you need changes throughout a lifespan. From birth to adulthood, newborns need about double the amount of sleep as adults. Below is a breakdown showing the recommended amount of sleep per age group:

To determine whether or not you get enough sleep during the night, the Epwoth Sleepiness Scale was created to identify those suffering from sleep deprivation. The test asks a series of questions based on the likelihood of you dozing off or sleeping while participating in certain tasks. To learn more and to take the test, visit:
www.stanford.edu/~dement/epworth.html.

The overall message is:

  • Make a bedroom conducive to a good night’s sleep, including a comfortable bed, darkness, quiet, and coolness.
  • Listen to your body so you know when it is ready to go to sleep at night and when it is ready wake in the morning.
  • Try to get at least eight hours of sleep per night.
  • Keep ALL electronics out of the bedroom (including cell phones).

No matter what is going on in your life, it is always important to get enough sleep to keep you healthy, alert, and energized. Every day, you can find yourself replenished to start a new, successful day!

For more information about childhood sleep needs, visit: www.sleepforkids.org.

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