Most people know that getting a good night’s sleep is important to maintain good health. However, in today’s age of information, we are often too busy to actually prioritise resting in bed, often having other things on our mind such as work, school or social media. In fact, many of us sleep so little that we suffer from sleep debt, and have forgotten what being fully rested feels like.
With the advancement of technology, we have found ways to remain awake and productive. Stimulants like coffee and energy drinks keep us awake, while alarm clocks can help us wake up on time so that we won’t be late for work or a meeting. However, these and other factors such as the light from electronic devices, interferes with our “circadian rhythm”, also known as our natural sleep/wake cycle.
We need sleep. When we sleep, our body heals our damaged cells and boosts our immune systems. We recover from the previous day’s activities and get ready for the next day. This is why when we sleep poorly, we may feel tired and find it difficult to get through the rest of the day. We also tend to be more irritable, forgetful and have difficulty making good decisions.
While sleeping is important, different people require different amount of sleep. Our lifestyle and health conditions affect this need, as does our age.
Although it is impossible to pinpoint the exact amount of sleep we need, experts have come up with recommendations for people at different ages. In general, the elderly need less sleep with 7 to 8 hours being recommended, while newborns are recommended to have around 14 to 17 hours of sleep a day. Adults are encouraged to sleep for 7 to 9 hours daily.
You may have individual needs and habits, so why not start to determine your own sleeping pattern? Try out different amounts of sleep and learn how much sleep is best for you. Pay attention to your energy levels after a bad and good night’s sleep, then make a sleeping schedule suited for yourself.
Make your environment ideal when you sleep – make sure your bedroom is insulated from noise and is of the right temperature, and ensure that your mattress and pillows are comfortable. For a good night’s rest, avoid foods such as alcohol and caffeine, and turn off all electronic devices before going to bed.
Sleeping improves mood, helps you maintain a healthy weight, improves your athletic performance and increases your ability to pay attention. Like a healthy diet and regular exercise, sleep is a critical component to overall health. If you or your family member experience symptoms such as sleepiness during the day, snoring, leg cramps, insomnia or other problems preventing you from sleeping well, see a doctor or sleep professional to determine the underlying cause. Make sleep a priority, and schedule it just as you would other important activities. Don’t sleep on it!