Is Sleep Really the Best Medicine?

Rumor has it a good laugh and long sleep are the best cure for everything. Just like eating and breathing, sleep is something that we just couldn’t live without. If you’ve ever pulled an all-nigher you know how important sleep is to just simply function on a day to day basis. Even though there’s ongoing sleep research and we all know we need sleep, the answer to why is still unknown to researchers. There are many different theories about why we need to sleep, but all researchers would agree sleep is vital to function. It is just something we do as breathing organisms and just like it has great benefits for us, the lack of it, could have negative and detrimental effects as well. In this post, we’ll focus on the positive effects of sleep. But first, let’s learn a little bit about it.

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How much sleep do we really need?
We all have heard the golden “8 hours of sleep” rule, but how much truth does it hold? The amount of sleep we need actually varies based on age, daily activities, overall heath and typical sleep patterns. Babies, children and teenagers need more sleep per night to allow full growth and development. For example, babies usually need about 16 hours of sleep, young children 10 hours, teens 9 hours and an average adult requires 7-8 hours of sleep per night. (ADD) For adults, a good night of sleep usually needs to consists of 4-5 sleep cycles, each including periods of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which is our deep sleep. Although the exact amount of sleep varies from person to person, the National Institute of Health recommendations are a great starting point for getting proper sleep.

Can a “long sleep” really cure?
Getting proper sleep can greatly improve personal health. Dr. Michael Twery, a sleep expert at National Institute of Health explains, “Sleep affects almost every tissue in our bodies. It affects growth and stress hormones, our immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure and cardiovascular health.” According to the researchers at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services getting proper sleep can help you:

  • Get sick less often
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Lower your risk for serious health problems, like diabetes and heart disease
  • Reduce stress and improve your mood
  • Think more clearly and do better in school and at work
  • Get along better with others
  • Make good decisions and avoid injuries- for example, sleepy drivers cause thousands of car accidents every year

How to fix common sleep problems
Whether it’s trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep or difficulty breathing while sleeping due to some kind of sleep apnea, it is estimated that around 70 million Americans of all ages suffer from some type of sleep disturbances. On that note, here are some day and night advices and tips from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on how to improve our sleep.

Change what you do during the day:

  • Try to spend some time outdoors every day
  • Plan your physical activity for earlier in the day, not right before you go to bed
  • Stay away from caffeine (including coffee, tea, and soda) late in the day
  • Limit daytime naps to 20 minutes or less
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. This means no more than 1 drink a day for women and no more than 2 drinks a day for men.
  • Don’t eat a big meal close to bedtime
  • Quit smoking– nicotine in cigarettes can make it harder for you to sleep.

Create a better sleep environment:

  • Make sure your bedroom is dark by using blinds or blackout curtains
  • Keep your bedroom quiet
  • Consider keeping electronic devices out of the bedroom
  • Make sure you have proper sleeping posture

Set a bedtime routine:

  • Go to bed at the same time every night
  • Get the same amount of sleep each night
  • Avoid eating, talking on the phone or reading in bed
  • Avoid using computers or smart phones, watching TV or playing video games at bedtime

If you are still awake after staying in bed for more than 20 minutes, get up. Do something relaxing, like reading or meditating, until you feel sleepy. If you find yourself up at night worrying about things, use these tips from Health.gov to help manage stress.

And finally, if none of the tips provided help you catch the Z’s, please do look into seeing a doctor or a licensed professional for help. If you are interesting in learning more about proper sleeping posture or getting more movement during your day feel free to contact us.  We have plenty more tips from where these came from! With Direct Access in NJ we can get you in for an evaluation without you having to see your Doctor, probably quicker than you could get that appointment, while also saving you both time and money!  

Please, call us to schedule your student’s evaluation at one of BeneFIT’s locations, Bridgewater (908.203.5200) or Chester (908.879.5700)  with one of our highly trained Doctors of Physical Therapy!

Sources

https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2013/04/benefits-slumber#.Xq-JZwH1GJ4.email
https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/topics/everyday-healthy-living/mental-health-and-relationships/get-enough-sleep#panel-1
http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/why-do-we-sleep