As children we are told that we need to go to bed early so that we get enough sleep for the next day. As we get older we are told that we need to sleep to allow our bodies time to recharge. During the teen years this seems like a silly thing, something that old people say. Inevitably there comes that night where we stay up to the wee hours of the morning for one reason or another, and we end up feeling like death the next day in school. This would seem to support the old people saying we need sleep.
As it turns our sleep is something that we actually need; it’s not just an old wives’ tale. But why do we need it?
As it turns out, sleep is important because it allows our bodies to work, as well as recharge. While we may think that we are shut down while we sleep, we are in fact working very hard. Sleep allows our bodies to:
- Rebuild muscles that have worn down throughout the day
- Clean away plaques and waste in the brain
- Process and respond to the experiences of the day
- Regulate our emotions
- Regulate our internal clocks
These are just some of the things that our bodies are working on doing while we sleep. It would seem that our parents and health teachers were onto something when they told us that we needed to sleep at night.
What does a lack of sleep do?
After those nights where we stay up too late, we feel like death and often can not concentrate on the tasks of the day, and this combination makes us irritable. This is because we have not allowed our bodies adequate time to recharge and begin to repair itself. Studies have shown that when we don’t get enough sleep, even for one night, our:
- Emotional response to negative feelings increases
- Appetite control is diminished
- Bodies have to work harder to regulate our immune system
- Body’s inner clock is thrown off and we feel tired at times when we need our bodies to be awake
These are things that could happen without enough sleep, and we may experience some of them or none of them. At times it can be hard to tell right away that your lack of sleep is affecting the internal workings of your body. So here are some signs to look for if you think that you may be sleep deprived:
- Feeling drowsy while engaged in a calm activity, such as driving or watching a movie
- Waking up feeling groggy
- Mood changes
- Inability to focus on tasks
How much sleep do you need?
Every person’s sleep needs are different. Some of that has to do with the quality of sleep that you are getting. That being said, the amount of sleep that is generally recommended is determined by your age. The official recommendations for the amount of sleep needed per day are as follows:
- Newborns (0-3 months old): 14-17 hours
- Infants (4-11 months old): 12-15 hours
- Toddlers (1-2 years old): 11-14 hours
- Preschoolers (3-5 years old): 10-13 hours
- School-aged children (6-13 years old): 9-11 hours
- Teenagers (14-17 years old): 8-10 hours
- Adults (18-64 years old): 7-9 hours
- Older adults (65+ years old): 7-8 hours
The amount of sleep is given as a range because this is the average amount of sleep that has been found to be important to our body’s ability to function. Some people may need more or less than the official recommendations, so you may need to experiment to find the amount of sleep that makes you feel your best.
How to get the most out of your sleep
As mentioned before the quality of your sleep is just as, if not more, important than the amount of sleep that you get. In order to improve the quality of your sleep there are some things that you can do, such as:
- Follow a sleep schedule: By going to sleep at the same time each night you are able to regulate your inner clock.
- Have a bedtime routine: Having a relaxing bedtime routine helps your body to wind down from the day and get in the mood to sleep.
- Get comfortable: Make sure that you are in an environment that feels comfortable and safe to you. Creating this environment could include changing the thermostat to a comfortable temperature for sleep, turning off all the lights, and making sure there are no distracting sounds.
- Shut down electronics: The lights that come from your devices can have a stimulating effect on your brain, because it tricks your body into thinking it is light and that you need to be up and active. In addition, the activities that you engage in through your devices serve to stimulate your brain function instead of relaxing it.
- Have a healthy lifestyle: Studies have shown that being active during the day helps you sleep better at night. In addition, eating foods that are good for you can help you sleep better.
- Talk with a sleep consultant: If you are continuously struggling to get a good night’s sleep, it may be time to talk to a professional. Sleep coaches or consultants are available for adults, children and babies. They will work with you to learn how to fall asleep and achieve a deep restful sleep.
Working to achieve quality sleep can be hard, especially if you have little ones at home. You may need to break the routines that you have in place now and you may not be able to do it alone. It is ok. There are professional sleep training consultants that can help you work with your family’s needs to ensure everyone gets the sleep that they need.
How can we help you
At Sleepably, we work to ensure that you are getting the most out of your sleep. We believe that everyone deserves a good night of sleep. We offer professional sleep coaching services to children and adults in Denver, CO, as well as the entire U.S. Our dedicated staff is available to help you schedule a consultation with our sleep consultants. We will work with you to ensure that you are able to achieve the sleep you deserve and need.