Sleep is one of the most important ways our bodies stay healthy, recover from stress and injury, and keep our minds alert. Without adequate sleep, we have a greater chance of developing stress-related diseases as we age. We are also more likely to suffer from lower energy levels, compromised intellectual and concentration abilities, and increased likelihood to develop obesity. According to Betterhealth.org, half of Americans say they are sleep deprived.
Insomnia and poor sleep lead to mood swings and irritability, which have a negative effect on social and interpersonal interactions. Long term effects of sleep deprivation include depression and anxiety. The physical symptoms are just as serious. Obesity is commonly caused by the same sedentary lifestyle caused by fatigue during the day, and eating in the middle of the night because of insomnia.
Lack of sleep can be dangerous to others around you as well. Operating a vehicle with little to no sleep is dangerous and known to have the risk equivalent to driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 100,000 police reported crashes were the result of “drowsy driving.”
Getting enough sleep is an integral part of mental and physical well-being as well as work and school performance. Knowing how much sleep you need, and adjusting your habits and practices can make a huge difference in your life for the better. Here are the best sleeping practices, for every age.
1) Adolescents and Teens
The lifestyle of a teenager is often associated with erratic sleeping patterns like staying up late at night and sleeping in on weekends/waking up early on weekdays. This sleeping pattern can be harmful because of its inconsistency. This can lead to stress, on top of the stress teens already experience from educational and social problems. For these young adults, sleep deprivation can also aggravate existing acne, or cause pimples and other skin problems. Teens are also more prone to mood swings and angst. Not getting enough sleep at night will worsen this and make them more volatile to deal with for teachers, parents and fellow peers.
In addition to mood changes, teen insomnia and poor sleeping habits can have a detrimental effect on growth. Sleep has restorative properties that are crucial to health and vitality. Lacking the proper amount of sleep can even stunt growth.
Ideally, a teenager should be getting 8-10 hours of sleep each night to function optimally. By being conscientious about getting proper amounts of sleep, teenagers will improve their moods, skin, growth and their attention span in school. A great tip for improving sleep in teen years is to shut phones off at least two hours before bed. The light from the phone has been proven to disrupt circadian rhythms and cause insomnia. This disruption in the sleep cycle can be avoided by shutting off phones and laptops two hours before bedtime.
2) Young Adults
People in their 20s and 30s should ideally be getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night, which is a little less than a teenager needs. Getting those 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep is extremely important for stress management because most people are juggling part- time jobs and college, or full-time jobs.
College students benefit from a regular sleep schedule. Making time for a midday nap between classes is a smart way to refresh the body and mind when all-night studying has taken place. Another way to improve sleeping at this age is to limit alcohol, caffeine and nicotine consumption before bedtime. These all contain chemicals that can disrupt sleep and cause interruptions that interfere with the quality of sleep. Going to sleep and waking up at roughly the same times during weekdays and weekends will help keep sleep patterns healthy.
3) Middle Aged Adults
For adults aged 40-60, the ideal sleep bracket is also 7-9 hours per day. Because of hectic work schedules and family obligations, it can be harder to get sleep during these years. This is because sleep patterns change and it might not be as easy to fall asleep as it was years prior. This is due in part because the circadian rhythms in our bodies that regulate natural functions such as sleep, evolve and change over time, sometimes in a negative way. Sleep disorders are more prevalent in middle aged adults, and people in this age group are more likely to take sleep medications.
If you prefer natural remedies over synthetic sleep remedies to handle sleep issues like insomnia, try eating a full meal at least three hours before bedtime, and limiting liquid intake before bedtime. A mug of warm milk or chamomile tea may also invite sleep, along with a warm shower or bath. Avoid technology and work related activities two hours before bedtime to encourage relaxation. Also remove screens from the bedroom to encourage healthy sleep patterns. End screen time at least two hours before bedtime to help the mind relax into slumber. Dim the lights and lower the thermostat a few degrees to optimize uninterrupted sleep.
4) Older Adults
For adults over the age of 65, a good night’s rest is imperative. It can insulate against memory problems such as dementia or forgetfulness. Getting at least seven hours of sleep a night can be very beneficial, especially for seniors. Being older naturally poses a risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other conditions, and getting the right amount of sleep has positive physical effects, which should be taken advantage of.
Making a conscious effort to stay on a regular sleeping schedule is extremely important for all ages. Our sleep cycle is directly connected to our moods, productivity, relationships, health, wellness and longevity. As you age, you will find your sleep patterns and habits changing. There are always ways to improve your sleep cycle. In the long run, you will feel more refreshed and upbeat with a healthy sleep regimen.
Ways to Optimize Your Sleep Schedule
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule for weekdays and weekends
- Avoid substances such as sugar, caffeine, alcohol and nicotine at least two hours before bed
- End “screen time” on phones and laptops two or three hours before going to sleep
- Keep bedrooms dark and cool