The Value of a Good Night’s Sleep

Dr. Anna Breytman

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Dr. Anna Breytman

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The Value of a Good Night’s Sleep

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The Value of a Good Night’s Sleep

Sleep is essential for our physical and emotional well being. It allows us to function optimally during the day and is associated with mood, concentration, learning, memory, and decision making. It can also be correlated with chronic illness, including diabetes, heart and kidney disease as well as poor eating habits and weight gain. With regard to mental health, sleep disturbance can worsen symptoms of depression, anxiety and mania.

One in four people experience some form of sleep disturbance. Difficulties sleeping include, trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up too early, nightmares, sleep walking and restless sleep. It is estimated that 25% of adults do not get the recommended 7-9 hours of nightly sleep.

Adolescents generally require 8-10 hours of sleep though on average most get only 7 hours. At this age, kids are progressing through another developmental maturation stage, both cognitively and physically, and sleep supports this process.

School obligations, over-reliance on technology, early school times and a natural shift in their internal clock starting in puberty can contribute to sleep disturbance in this age group. Compared to children and adults, the adolescent brain releases the sleep related hormone, melatonin about 2 hours later. Therefore, they may have more difficulty falling asleep early. It is important to take into consideration the natural sleep and wake cycle, as well as other factors when assessing the appropriate sleep schedule for adolescents.

Steps to Optimal Sleep

Sleep hygiene refers to good sleep habits. You can, in fact, train your mind and body in ways that support healthy sleep habits by using several strategies.

  • Maintain a consistent sleep pattern. This predictable rhythm sets your internal clock. Your mind and body therefore expects sleep at the same time. Go to bed and wake up at approximately the same time, including on the weekends.
  • Designate your bed for sleep and intimacy so that you come to associate it only with these activities. If you engage in many other activities in bed, such as working, reading, eating, watching TV, sleep may be disrupted.
  • Create an environment that supports sleep. This includes, a quiet space, that is cool and comfortable.
  • Develop sleep routines that are soothing. You can take a bath, mediate or listen to an audio book/music. Avoid overstimulating activities before bedtime.
  • Do your best to avoid watching the clock if you cannot sleep. Move your clock so that you are not overly preoccupied with tracking the time, which can result in negative thinking patterns and worry about sleep.
  • Avoid use of technology at least an hour before bedtime. The blue light from the screen can interfere with the release of melatonin and can be overstimulating.
  • Keep to the general rule that if you are not asleep in 20 minutes, get up, try to engage in something soothing and attempt to sleep again. If you remain awake in bed for prolonged periods of time, your mind begins to associate the bed with the inability to sleep.
  • Avoid naps during the day so that you are more tired in the evening. If you do nap, keep it to less than an hour and earlier in the day.
  • Use a sleep diary to chart sleep patterns and determine what needs to be adjusted.
  • Get plenty of natural light. This functions as an alert to your brain to a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
    Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.
  • Eat right and exercise. People who exercise have more restful sleep. Vigorous exercise should be scheduled 2-3 hours before bedtime.
  • Schedule worry time well before sleep . Anxiety can cause intrusive or racing thoughts which can keep you awake. In setting aside worry time, you can write down your anxious thoughts so that you do not have to dwell on these at bedtime. If you cannot fall or stay asleep, you can gently remind yourself that you have set up a specific time for worrying and planning.

If you continue to experience sleep difficulties, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques can help to alleviate these symptoms.

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