How many hours of sleep do you get each night? Do you have any trouble falling asleep or sleeping soundly? How do you feel in the morning after sleeping only a couple of hours?
Just like a healthy diet and regular exercise, a good night’s sleep is key to good health. People who get enough sleep have better physical health, mental health, and quality of life than those who lack sleep.
If you do not get enough sleep, your body will not be able to rest and recharge, leaving you exhausted and groggy the next day. Your brain will also be a mess, making it difficult to efficiently process information, concentrate on tasks at hand, and be in a good mood.
How much sleep should you get?
The amount of sleep that a person has to have per day varies over his or her lifetime. During the early years, he or she needs a lot more sleep than when she reaches his or her teenage and adult years. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine or AASM, below are the recommended numbers of hours of sleep per age group:
- From age 0 to 1 year – Between 12 and 16 hours per day (including multiple nap times)
- 1 year to 2 years – Between 11 and 14 hours per day (including multiple nap times)
- 3 years to 5 years – Between 10 and 13 hours per day (including multiple nap times)
- 6 years to 12 years – Between 9 and 12 hours per day
- 13 years to 18 years – Between 8 and 10 hours per day
- 19 years or older – Between 7 and 8 hours per day
What will happen if you do not get enough sleep?
Sleep deprivation is not good for your health. If you fail to get the recommended amount of sleep, you will be tired the entire day, and not have the energy to do the things that you usually do. You will lose focus and not be alert, which can be very dangerous if you are driving or doing things that require precision and attention.
To know if you need more sleep, watch out for the following symptoms:
- You doze off while watching TV or reading a book.
- You doze off while stuck in traffic for even just a few minutes.
- You doze off while in class, a meeting, or a movie theater.
- You doze off while driving.
If your sleep deficiency is not addressed at the earliest opportunity, you will encounter more severe learning, reacting, and focusing problems. You will have difficulties remembering information, finding solutions to problems, making decisions, managing your behavior and emotions, and socializing.
What tips and tricks can you try to sleep better?
Sufficient sleep is crucial to the proper functioning of your vital organs and systems. Therefore, you have to fix the problem as soon as possible, before your condition gets worse. Below are some sleeping techniques and strategies you can use to improve your sleeping habits:
Have a consistent sleeping and waking up schedule
You should try to go to bed at the same time every day and wake up at the same time every day so as not to mess up your internal body clock.
For example, on workdays, you can set 10 pm as your bedtime and 6 am as your wake up time, and on weekends, try not to sleep or wake up much later than usual. If you can stick to that routine every day, it will be easier for you to get sufficient sleep.
Avoid exercising before going to bed
You should spend the hour before your bedtime doing relaxing activities, such as listening to mellow music, doing some light reading, or soaking in the tub, which can help your body fall asleep.
Do not do your workout session so close to your sleep, because the increase in physical activity will make your brain think that it is time to be awake and active, making it difficult to sleep.
Do not eat a large meal shortly before bedtime
If you usually go to sleep at 10 pm, you should not have a large dinner feast at 8 pm or later, because your body will need more time to digest so much food, and that can keep you awake way past your bedtime. It is best that you eat a large meal much earlier or eat less.
Do not drink coffee so late in the day
Coffee contains caffeine, a stimulant that increases the activity of the central nervous system. If you drink even just a cup late in the afternoon, you will not be able to fall asleep right away because the effects can take as many as 8 hours to wear off. If you really want to drink coffee, make sure to do it early in the day so that the caffeine will not interfere with your sleep.
Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet
It is important that the place where you sleep is comfortable and cozy. You can use blackout curtains for the windows to keep out the bright lights from the streetlamps or billboards outside. Then, set your air conditioner to a not-so-cold-but-not-so-warm temperature, so you do not freeze or get all sweaty and wake up in the middle of the night. Also, make sure that your windows and doors are shut to keep the noise out.
Be more physically active
Regular exercise offers a lot of health benefits, including good sleep. When you workout, your body releases hormones that can lower your stress levels, improve your mood, and strengthen your heart and other vital organs, making it much easier for you to fall asleep.
Limit your nap times
Many adults take naps during the day to avail of quick energy boosts to help them get through the day. However, if these naps are longer than 20 minutes or are taken late in the afternoon, falling asleep at night will become difficult. To avoid having sleeping problems, limit naps to a maximum of 20 minutes and make sure to take them not later than early in the afternoon.