We all know that sleep is important for our health. Unfortunately, sleep can become elusive in times of stress, such as the current COVID-19 crisis. In honor of Sleep Awareness Month, Mosaic behavioral health consultant, Kelly Winter, MS, LMFT drafted this blog to help you get the shut eye you need, now more than ever.
In this article we tackle:
- How much sleep you need
- Physical and emotional benefits of sleep
- Common ailments sleep deprivation puts you at risk for developing
- Easy tips to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep
- Other ways to get help
How much sleep you need
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following amounts of sleep:
|LIFE STAGE||AGE||HOURS OF SLEEP PER DAY|
|Newborn||0-3 months||14-17 hours|
|Infant||4–12 months||12–16 hours per 24 hours (including naps)|
|Toddler||1–2 years||11–14 hours per 24 hours (including naps)|
|Preschool||3–5 years||10–13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)|
|School Age||6–12 years||9–12 hours per 24 hours|
|Teen||13–18 years||8–10 hours per 24 hours|
|Adult||18–60 years||7 or more hours per night|
|61–64 years||7–9 hours|
|65 years and older||7–8 hours|
Physical and emotional benefits
When we sleep at night, we basically hibernate. Our bodies don’t need to expend energy moving, digesting, coordinating, strategizing, reacting, feeling, etc., and as a result, all of that energy turns inward. Therefore, our time sleeping is spent in four rejuvenating ways; resting, repairing, restoring and resetting.
- Rest: Active bodily functions rest, therefore all energy goes to automatic processes only and the heart beats less to extend its life
- Repair: Cell, injury and illness repair
- Restore: Physical energy levels and proper hormone levels are restored
- Reset: Bodily processes (e.g., muscle and tissue elasticity) are reset and cells rejuvenate and multiply
- Rest: Mental activities that work while we are conscious enter a state of rest
- Repair: Emotional damage both from our daily interactions and from long held wounds are repaired
- Restore: Mental fatigue limits and distress tolerance are restored
- Reset: Memory stores, mood levels and regulation capacities are reset
Common ailments associated with sleep deprivation
When we sleep for less than six hours (as 40% of Americans report), we are at higher risk for developing “lifestyle-related” conditions. Here are some common ones we see:
- Type 2 Diabetes. In the deeper phases of sleep, the body produces hormones to regulate what we lost during the day. One of these hormones is insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels. Lack of enough insulin to regulate the blood sugar can lead to Type 2 diabetes.
- Hypertension. Hypertension is related to elevated levels of cortisol and adrenaline. Without enough sleep, our body cannot regulate these hormones. If we have too much, our ability to handle stressors goes down and our risk of high blood pressure goes up.
- Obesity. When we don’t wake refreshed, we rarely feel like exercising. Similarly, we tend to eat the most convenient foods in sight. These factors, combined with an imbalance of necessary hormones, can lead to obesity. Sleepfoundation.org has an excellent article on this topic if you’d like to learn more.
- Depression/Anxiety. The brain is a soup of hormones which regulates our emotions, brain and body activities. Common ones include serotonin, dopamine, and melatonin, just to name a few. When not enough of these are produced or regulated, it throws off the brain’s chemical balance, resulting in depression or anxiety. Consequently, we find it difficult to cope with stress and lack motivation to change.
Improving sleep quantity and quality
Try some of the below tips to improve your sleep. Over time, you’ll likely notice improvement in your mental and physical health, too.
- Try to sleep and wake within an hour of the same times each night – even on your days off
- Cease electronic use the last 30 minutes before bed
- If you can’t get back to sleep within 20 minutes, get up and do something monotonous
- Avoid caffeine after noon
- Use your bed for sleeping and sex only
- Avoid clock watching – this gets your brain stressed about how much sleep you are losing
- Try exercise daily – even a 20 minute walk will help
- Keep the room dark and cool
- Try a weighted blanket, cooling pillow or mattress pad
- Establish a regular bedtime routine that includes some form of relaxation
Other ways to get help
If you need extra help, call 541-383-3005 to make an appointment with a Mosaic provider. As a result of COVID-19, many of our providers have gone digital, replacing in person visits with remote sessions. Let’s use these new tools of connection to help improve your sleep.