-by Amanda Keller, Wellness Coordinator for Orange City Area Health System
Do you know how many hours of sleep you should be getting each night? Did you know your sleep patterns have a big impact on your overall health?
Let’s dig in to answer these questions and more!
Sleep matters – both quantity and quality
Maybe you are one of our essential 3am-3pm nurses and you’re already rolling your eyes ready to quit reading. Perhaps you have a newborn at home — or maybe you are on the other end of the spectrum getting up in years and not able to sleep well at night for some of those age-related reasons. Stay with me! I do believe that no matter where you are at in life and how “off” your sleep rhythms and habits may be, we can each do small things to help improve this for ourselves!
Getting enough sleep really does matter. We are sleeping 1-2 hours less/night than people did 60 years ago and 2.5 hours less/night than 100 years ago. Look at the chart here to see how many hours of sleep you should be getting. If you are a ways off, take a week and try to get in bed 15 minutes earlier. If you are successful at that, the next week you can do it again, trying to gain another 15 minutes, so that over the course of 2-3 weeks you may have gained abut 30 minutes more of sleep each night! The chart provides a range; it’s important to try and
establish what is best for you! If you do well on 7.5 hours of sleep/ night, great! No need to strive for 8 or 8.5. But if you are someone who needs the 8.5, you may have to find creative ways to prioritize for that! Paying attention to this can be important and here are some of the reasons why.
There are physical consequences to consistently sleeping less than 6 hours/night. For example:
• Damage to more than 700 genes
• Brain tissue loss
• Increase risk of infection, stroke, cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, infertility
• Increase hunger, desire for larger portion sizes, and preference for high calorie/processed foods.
• Just two days of sleep reduction leads to more than 20% decrease in, attention spans, reaction times, strength, stamina, accuracy, and speed.
What about the impact in other areas or our well-being? Here are some fun facts related to lack of sleep:
• Do you ever feel cranky or lack patience with lack of sleep? Lack of sleep disrupts the flow of epinephrine, dopamine and serotonin – chemicals closely related with mood and behavior, among other things.
• The better you sleep the more you learn and your memory is better as overnight your brain makes new neural connections!
• $63 billion/year is the cost of lack of sleep by undermining creativity, safety, problem solving, and productivity.
As you can see, sleep impacts everything! I hope you’re asking, so how do we get better sleep? Here are just a few ideas. Be sure to try things out and figure out what might work for you.
• Routine – yes, we make sometimes ritualistic bedtime routines for our babies and toddlers. This is something we as adults can benefit from as well! For example, it can be a difficult transition for our bodies to go from engaging content on a screen to sleep! But when we help our body transition we will often fall asleep more quickly and sleep better! You can even try a media fast 30-60 minutes before when you would like to be asleep.
• Teamwork – You may need to have a conversation with a spouse or housemate or the teenagers. Prioritizing “quiet hours” as a family and supporting one another’s “bedtimes” can make you feel like you are in it together – not fighting against one another.
• Exercise! – If your body has not had any physical demand placed on it in the day falling asleep at night can be a challenge.
• Faith and contentment – Try praying, casting your cares to God and asking him for what you are in need of. Give thanks for what you do have; the provisions and blessings in your life. Keep a small pad of paper nearby so you can write things down if they are troubling you, knowing that you can then revisit them at a more appropriate time the next day.