Our society sends this message that we need to constantly be striving for better at whatever the cost, pushing ourselves nonstop to get that raise, buy that car, pass that exam, get straight A’s, etc. and in order to do so you have to stay up until all hours of the night. It seems that if we were to shift our focus and be more mindful of our sleep quality and the amount, we are getting each night it could potentially increase our quality of life. Not getting enough sleep is linked to some serious health issues but also mental health issues as well. Research shows that sleep is directly linked to poor concentration, fatigue, irritability, depression, anxiety, and ADHD which are the three most common mental health disorders in the United States. Poor sleep can take a toll and affect our relationships in a negative way. Our energy levels are often impacted which makes it very difficult to stay away all day and complete our tasks. We are exhausting our bodies and our brains. If we are getting enough sleep it would add up to about a third of our lives asleep. Sleep is as important as eating, drinking, and breathing is, it is vital in order to stay happy and healthy. Good sleeping habits help to restore and repair our brains and bodies from the everyday stress we endure. When we are sleeping our brains are still working in a critical and important way. They can be processing information, storing memories, and undergoing maintenance that allows us to function at our best during the day. Children need a significant amount of more sleep that adults, but it is also noted that patterns of sleep shift from childhood to adulthood. Children sleep multiple times throughout the entire day and night, as an adult it shifts and becomes one long amount throughout the night.
So, what could be some ways to increase our quality of sleep?
Creating bedtime habits:
- Create a bedtime and wake up time routine.
- Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning (we are creatures of habit and consistency)
- Avoid sugar, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol close to bedtime.
- Get a good amount of sunlight exposure during the day.
- Exercise regularly, note that it is best to get a workout in at least a few hours before you go to bed because exercise often provides energy and can disrupt sleep.
- Meditation or engage in mindfulness. (my favorite app for this is the insight timer, for children you can use: Children’s bedtime meditations for sleep & calm)
- Put away devices an hour before bed.
- Engage in self-care. (Some of my favorite are lavender essential oils, warm tea, taking a bath, writing in your journal, read a book)
- Only use the bed for sleeping, don’t bring work into the bedroom because then this signals to your brain that the bed is not just for sleeping and then your brain doesn’t shut down as quickly and efficiently.
- If you are unable to fall asleep get out of bed and move around for a bit, maybe sit on the couch and read a book for a bit until you start to feel tired then go back and lay down.
I came across this chart that has broken down the amount of sleep as a guideline that is efficient for our mental health and bodies based off our age:
- Birth to 3 months: 14 to 17 hours.
- 4 to 11 months: 12 to 15 hours.
- 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours.
- 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours.
- 6 to 13 years: 9 to 11 hours.
- 14 to 17 years: 8 to 10 hours.
- 18 to 64 years: 7 to 9 hours.
- 65 years and older: 7 to 8 hours.
Know that this is just a guideline. Everyone’s sleep needs are different, so it is about trying to find what your needs are and where that sweet spot is of feeling rested and restored.