Are you getting enough?
By Kereen Lazurko, Recreation Therapist
Deprivation is basically the lack of or denial of something considered to be a necessity. The consequences of this deprivation may range anywhere from a simple annoyance to actual health-related issues. When we are talking sleep, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to both physical and cognitive health concerns and even tragic accidents.
For adults (26-64), the recommended amount of sleep in order to stay healthy, alert and active is 7-9 hours per night. For seniors (65+), the recommendation is 7-8. The actual amount required even within this range varies from person to person. To determine whether or not you are obtaining the optimal level of sleep for YOU, answer the following questions:
- do you feel fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, feel refreshed when you wake up, do you wake up without use of an alarm clock, and do you feel alert throughout the day? OR
- do you feel foggy/groggy upon waking, do you experience excessive daytime sleepiness, do you feel moodier than usual, do you resort to excessive amounts of caffeine to help you function?
If you are answering “yes” to the second set of questions rather than the first, you should consider making changes to your sleep habits or routine.
Start by determining your optimal amount of sleep. If you are currently getting seven hours of sleep each night but still find yourself dragging throughout the day, increase your sleep gradually in half hour increments until you reach your optimum. It is important to do this gradually because too much sleep can also cause health risks.
Following are some tips to help you improve the quantity & quality of your sleep:
- Try to keep the same wake/sleep schedule every day…even on weekends! If you do need (or want) to stray, try to keep it within an hour on each end.
- Be physically active!
- Try to have a regular “downtime” routine to ensure you are calm and relaxed before heading to bed (e.g. warm bath or shower, reading, light snack, dimming lights, listening to music). This signals your body that the transition to sleep is nearing—helping you fall asleep faster and improving the quality of your sleep.
- This routine should also include avoiding the blue light emitted by electronics (e.g. cell phone, laptops, TV, etc.) for at least an hour before bedtime.
- Keep your bedroom dark and cool (between 60-67 degrees F/16-19 C).
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine for six hours before bedtime
- Avoid napping during the day. As tempting as a nap may be when you are feeling exhausted from a lack of sleep at night, this can lead to a vicious cycle.
- Try relaxation techniques (e.g. progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness training, breathing exercises, and guided imagery).
- Spend time in bed only when you are sleepy. If you are unable to fall asleep after 10 minutes, get up, do something relaxing (e.g. reading, meditation, breathing exercises). Once you feel groggy, go back to bed and try again. If after 10 minutes you still aren’t sleeping, try again. It may take several tries that night and even for several nights but your brain will eventually get trained to associate your bed with sleep rather than thinking.