Sleep and how much we need has sparked increased clinical and research interest over the past decade. Sleep problems are common at any age, and have been linked to behavior challenges, inattentiveness, and learning issues in children, and also high blood pressure, heart failure, stroke, obesity, and diabetes in adults. Twenty percent of vehicle crashes are linked to drowsy driving, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lack of sleep is the number one cause of workplace accidents. We know that sleep is just as important to our health as good nutrition and exercise, but we don’t pay as much attention to getting a good night’s sleep. During sleep, important physiological processes occur that include healing, muscle growth, and cognitive organization. So how much sleep do we need? And what can we do to sleep well? Our need for sleep changes as we age, but the typical adult needs 7 to 8 hours – 50% of adults report not getting this. There are many reasons for not getting enough sleep, ranging from occasional insomnia to medical conditions, including obstructive sleep apnea , which require a physician’s assessment. If you have occasional insomnia, try these tips to help you sleep better:
- Sleep in a bedroom that is dark, quiet, cool, and comfortable. (Even light from alarm clocks can disrupt sleep).
- Exercise daily, but do not do vigorous exercise 2 hours before bedtime.
- Don’t go to bed on a full stomach – finish your meal at least 2 hours before bedtime, and limit fluids as you get closer to bedtime.
- Avoid stimulants after dinner – alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine all interfere with sleep patterns.
- Wind down before bedtime – an hour before bedtime, turn off electronics, begin to dim the lights, and do something relaxing.
Excerpts taken from the American Occupational Therapy Association, OT Practice
Centrex Field Notes are articles written or compiled by Centrex Therapists. This article was produced by Pam Brooks, OTR/L, Clinical Occupational Therapy Specialist.