Last year, our sister site at Nevada Pain explored some issues surrounding sleep and produced some great content. In light of Sleep Awareness Week we thought we would share some of this information for our readers and provide more details about sleep including recent research.

How much sleep do you need?

You’ve heard that you need eight hours of sleep a night, right? While this is a reasonable rule of thumb, it isn’t exact. Everyone’s personal body clock is different and some people need more than eight while others can function on less. However, if at any time during the day you feel sleepiness affecting your ability to work or function, you are not getting enough sleep.

Without enough sleep you may find yourself impaired much like a person who has consumed too much alcohol. It can be detrimental for day to day activities as well as driving, which can lead to dangerous situations on the road. Eventually, not having enough sleep can cause sleep deprivation, which contributes to long-term health problems. In fact, sleeping produces a neurotransmitter called serotonin that regulates the body’s pain responses, anxiety, and depression.

The importance of sleep

Restful sleep influences many functions within our bodies. It regulates the immune system to fight off infections and diseases. It helps to build a healthy cardiovascular system, along with exercise. It helps regulate our mood so we can avoid irritability or memory problems. Quality sleep can even fend off depression. Sleep is also an essential part of your body’s metabolism and is necessary for weight control.

Recent studies on sleep

In December of 2014, the Medical College of Wisconsin published their findings that a lack of sleep affects our bodies on a cellular level. Researchers learned that sleep deprivation causes damage to our cells. The damage was most common in the liver, lung, and small intestine. However, recovery sleep heals the damage. While it has long been understood that sleep affects our overall health this study helps make a more concrete connection between sleep deprivation and conditions like cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Sleep affects our bone health as well. In a Journal of Bone and Mineral Research review, experts discovered that sleep apnea may be one cause of osteoporosis. Sleep apnea affects a patient’s sleep duration, quality, breathing, and inflammation. Getting enough or too little rest affects the natural metabolism of our bone.

The most recent information on sleep health comes from a report published at the beginning of February, 2015. For the first time the National Sleep Foundation published specific sleep durations based on age and physiology. However, the organization also recognizes there will likely be some variation among individuals.

The new categories are:

  • 14 to 17 hours a day for newborns until three months
  • 12 to 15 hours for infants to 11 months old
  • 11 to 14 hours for toddlers from one to two years of age
  • Preschoolers from three to five years should get ten to 13 hours
  • School age children from six to 13 need nine to 11 hours of sleep
  • Eight to ten hours is recommended for teenagers
  • Younger adults from 18 to 25 should get seven to nine hours
  • Adults between the ages of 25 and 64 still need between seven to nine hours
  • Seven to eight hours is best for adults 65 or older

Sleep Awareness Week

The first full week in March is Sleep Awareness Week. This event is an annual public awareness campaign to educate individuals about the importance of sleep. The week-long event ends as we prepare to spring forward with the beginning of daylight savings time. So how can you make sure you’re getting enough sleep? Here are some ways you can adjust your sleep schedule and give yourself the best chance at a good night’s sleep.

  1. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. People with good sleep cycles go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. This has been proven effective for generations.
  2. Don’t be afraid to take a nap. When you feel tired during the day your body is telling you to slow down. Even corporations are taking this into account and creating nap spaces for their staff.
  3. Spend as much time in daylight as possible. Many people who have sleep problems don’t get enough exposure to sunlight at the right times of day. Get outside as much as you can, especially in the morning.
  4. Don’t eat or drink caffeine or alcohol close to bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant so it can make falling asleep difficult. Alcohol is a depressant but it is still not recommended as a sleep aid because it influences quality of sleep. Eating food can also disrupt your sleep as your body concentrates on digestion rather than rest.
  5. Create a calming sleep routine. Before going to bed at night, establish some rituals that can help you sleep. Stop watching television an hour or so before your bed time. Read a book with the lights dimmed. Use lavender to make your room relaxing.
  6. Get a comfortable mattress. Of course, none of this will be effective if your sleep is disrupted due to an uncomfortable mattress. Determine whether firm or soft works for you and make a good investment.

As we change our clocks ahead during Sleep Awareness Week, be sure to prepare for that lost hour of sleep. It is amazing how just one hour can affect your entire schedule. Try going to bed a little early on the day the clocks are switched forward. Limit your exposure to light after you go to bed. You can even use a night light to illuminate your middle of the night trips to the bathroom rather than turning on the overhead light.

Will you use Sleep Awareness Week to establish better sleeping patterns to impact your health in a positive way?

Image by Indi Samarajiva via Flickr

GET FREE EMAIL UPDATES!

Daily updates on conditions, treatments, and news about everything happening inside pain medicine.

You have Successfully Subscribed!