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The importance of sleep is often overlooked. It’s easy to lose a couple hours here and there due to things beyond your control, but overtime, lack of sleep can take its toll on your health. Failing to have a good night’s sleep can affect all aspects of your life from putting you at risk of being in or causing a car accident to being moody and unpleasant to being physically ill. The next time you stay up late to binge watch one more t.v. episode online or get up early to beat rush hour traffic, ask yourself if you really had a good night’s sleep.
What is a Good Night’s Sleep?
What exactly is a good night’s sleep? It depends on who you ask. If you ask a new parent, he or she may say that their definition of a good night’s rest is any amount of sleep that lasts more than a few hours (as opposed to being interrupted by a crying newborn). Ask a growing teenager and he or she may say that there isn’t enough sleep in the world. Doctors, on the other hand, will say that a good night’s sleep will depend on your age and even your gender. While many individuals, of every age and gender, don’t fall within their “sleep needed” category, it’s good information to remember as too much sleep or too little could indicate a health problem or create one. A good night’s sleep should be uninterrupted and sound, here’s what doctors recommend (this amount of time includes napping):
- Newborns (0 to 3 months) should sleep 14-17 hours
- Infants (4 to 11 months) should sleep 12-15 hours
- Toddlers (1-2 years) should sleep 11-14 hours
- Young Children (3-5 years) should sleep 10-13 hours
- Children (6-13 years) should sleep 9 -11 hours
- Teens (14-17 years) should sleep 8-10
- Young Adults (18-25 years) should sleep 7-9 hours
- Adults (26-64 years) should sleep 7-9 hours
- Seniors (65 +) should sleep 7-8 hours
Do you get enough sleep, based upon doctor’s recommendations? The number of hours needed for good sleep should occur on a regular basis rather than every once in awhile. Stick to a routine whenever you can.
The Benefits of Good Sleep
Sleep is good for you on many levels. A good quality night of sleep, on a regular schedule, can do wonders for your physical, mental, and emotional health. When you sleep, your brain spends that time preparing for the next day. Think of putting your computer to “sleep” while it works on updates and other steps to keep it running properly; your brain is not much different. If you don’t give it a break, your thinking will become more cluttered, you will be less efficient, and you’ll struggle with decision making. Sleep deprivation can also lead to issues such as depression and has been linked to suicide.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NIH), getting enough sleep is vital to your physical health. Remember, sleep is “down time” for your body. If you continue to run without taking a break, your body’s functions (internal and external) will wear down and tire out, leading to bigger issues. Sleep deficiency can lead to any number of health problems, many of them connected to one another, but common health issues directly related to sleep loss includes:
- Heart & Kidney Disease
- High Blood Pressure which can lead to Heart Attacks and/or Strokes
- Obesity (sleep loss affects hormones)
- Issues with fertility, immune systems
Good sleep can make you happier, healthier, and more successful in different aspects of your life from work to school to personal relationships. Don’t underestimate the power of sleep.
Avoid Dangers with a Good Night’s Sleep
Healthy and frequent sleep patterns prevent numerous health issues, but what else does it do? Good sleep will keep you safer on the road. Each year, on average, 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and billions of dollars lost are a direct result of a fatigued driver or drowsy driving. Unfortunately, unlike other car accident causes, it is difficult to accurately determine whether or not a driver is fatigued. Simply nodding off briefly, for a couple of seconds, can force you to navigate your car dangerously (ie. over the center line or off the road).
While thousands of drivers are tired each day, you don’t have to join the crowd. Preventing a car accident while you’re tired is easier than you think. Most importantly, don’t drive when you are sleep deprived. If you become sleepy while driving, pull over to a safe place and take a quick nap or get out and stretch or do some energy boosting exercises. While coffee and other caffeine products may seem like the magic antidote, their effects are only temporary. Travel with others whenever possible and listen to your body and know the signs of drowsiness.
Get the Night’s Sleep You Deserve
While “good sleep” may not come easily or quickly, it’s important to try. If you suspect that you have sleep issues such as insomnia or sleep apnea, talk to your doctor. When seeking a perfect night of sleep, consider the following:
- How Good is Your Bed? Is your mattress supportive and in good condition? A bad bed can make or break a night’s sleep.
- Bedroom Temperature, Light & Sound: If your room is too warm, you may be cozy in the beginning of the night, but most likely wake up in a pool of sweat. When a room is not dark enough, you may not sleep as soundly. How quiet is your room? Do you sleep with background noise? Consider how all of these can affect your sleep when designing and decorating your bedroom.
- Unplug and Unwind: Studies indicate that people sleep better when they wind down and “unplug” before going to bed. Don’t consume too much food, caffeine, or alcohol a few hours before bed.
It’s never too late to get the sleep you deserve, every night. Get a good night’s sleep for your health and safety. Not only for your safety, but also the safety of others.