The Importance of Sleep

Daylight Savings Time begins March 13th at 2am when the clocks are turned forward one hour.  If you don’t go to bed one hour earlier on Saturday the 12th, you will lose one hour of sleep.  Since sleep seems to be most people’s focus when this time of the year comes around, and not the fact that we will be having more light in the evening, I thought it would be a great time to talk about the importance of sleep.

According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 80 million American adults are chronically sleep deprived, meaning they sleep less than the recommended minimum of seven hours a night. Anyone who regularly sleeps less than six hours a night has an elevated risk of depression, psychosis, and stroke. Lack of sleep is also directly tied to obesity – without enough sleep, the stomach and other organs overproduce the hunger hormone ghrelin, causing us to eat more than we need. Additionally, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a worsened appearance and disrupted mood. Sleep-deprived individuals are likely to look older, with more visible wrinkles and dark circles around the eyes. Sleep deprivation can make us more irritable and impairs our ability to both communicate effectively and cope with workplace stressors.

So, How Many Hours of Sleep Do You Need?

The amount of sleep a person needs depends on many things, including their age. In general:

  • Infants (ages 0-3 months) need 14-17 hours a day.
  • Infants (ages 4-11 months) need 12-15 hours a day
  • Toddlers (ages 1-2 years) need about 11-14 hours a day.
  • Preschool children (ages 3-5) need 10-13 hours a day.
  • School-age children (ages 6-13) need 9-11 hours a day.
  • Teenagers (ages 14-17) need about 8-10 hours each day.
  • Most adults need 7 to 9 hours, although some people may need as few as 6 hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep each day.
  • Older adults (ages 65 and older) need 7-8 hours of sleep each day.
  • Women in the first 3 months of pregnancy often need several more hours of sleep than usual.

But experts say that if you feel drowsy during the day, even during boring activities, you haven’t had enough sleep.

Here are simple changes you can make throughout the day so you can sleep more restfully at night:

Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up the same time each day. Sleeping later on weekends won’t fully make up for the lack of sleep during the week and will make it harder to wake up early on Monday morning.

Power down from digital devices. Using smartphones and computer screens late into the night can interfere with our ability to sleep because these devices emit blue light that decreases the body’s natural production and secretion of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.

Have a bedtime routine. Try to establish a nightly wind-down routine, beginning about an hour before bedtime. This can include listening to soothing music or reading.

Make your bedroom dark. Light is the single most important environmental factor affecting your ability to sleep. Consider blackout shades or curtains that block out all sunlight and outdoor electronic lights.

Keep room temperature cool. If your room is warm, this may interrupt your sleep quality.

Seek silence. Sleeping in noisy environments prevents us from falling asleep and staying in a state of deep, restorative slumber. Earplugs or white-noise machines can filter out noise distractions during sleep time.

Sleep partners can be snooze stealers. A partner that snores loudly or moves around frequently can keep you awake. Sleeping in separate beds may be the solution. Children and/or pets on your bed can also be disruptive to restful sleep.

• Don’t lie in bed awake. If you find yourself still awake after staying in bed for more than 20 minutes or if you are starting to feel anxious or worried, get up and do some relaxing activity until you feel sleepy. The anxiety of not being able to sleep can make it harder to fall asleep.

Limit caffeine consumption. Caffeine is a stimulant, and its effects can take as long as 8 hours to wear off fully. Most sleep experts recommend ending your caffeine consumption by 3 p.m.

Avoid large meals and beverages late at night. A large meal may cause indigestion that can interfere with sleep. Drinking too many fluids at night can cause frequent trips to the bathroom.

Don’t take naps after 3 p.m. When you nap too close to your bedtime you’re talking away the sleep drive that was building all day, making it harder to fall asleep at night.

Be physically active. Physical activity can improve the quality and quantity of sleep by reducing stress and anxiety and increasing total sleep time and quality of sleep.

How to Adapt to Daylight Savings Time?

Divide the time change over the weekend.  Simply make small changes each day instead of the full hour on Sunday morning. Start going to bed and waking up at slightly different times so your body is not shocked by the full 1 hour change.

Eat Breakfast.  This might sound like a weird one, but eating breakfast can send signals to your body and start changing your circadian rhythm to match the new time. Eat a medium sized breakfast shortly after waking up so your digestion kicks in, telling your body it’s time to wake up and be alert.

Get Sunlight  This is one that is a good habit to get into even when it isn’t Daylight Savings. Getting sun on your skin and in your eyes in the morning is the best signal to your body that it is day time.

Be Active in the Morning  It doesn’t have to be anything too intense, just enough activity to get your blood flowing. You can see that all of these steps are signals to your brain that it is day time. When you do all of these things your brain and body will get the message and adjusting to the time change will be much easier.

If you want to find out more about the importance of sleep, check out the resources at our library here.



Daylight Savings Time Infographic 

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