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Stay on Schedule with These Healthy Sleeping Habits

How much sleep do adults need? Children? Teens?

On average, adults need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep each night.

Compare this to newborns who need roughly 18 hours of sleep. As you age, the amount of sleep needed decreases.

Fact or Fiction: You can make up for lost sleep.

FACT.  Many people work long hours during the week resulting some sleep deprivation, and they catch up on weekends.

What would you define as too much sleep?

Excessive daytime sleepiness is usually a result of some type of sleep disorder, primary (OSA, RLS, PLMD, RBD) or secondary (poor sleep habits, pain, mood disorder).

With schools out, should teens/children still maintain the same bedtime, or is it ok to allow some flexibility?

Teens and children should have a regular schedule.

If the schedule is slightly different from the time the schools open again, adjustment should occur quickly, but if the schedule is hugely different, (example: bedtime at 2 AM and waking up at 11 AM), it will be more difficult to adjust.

What are the risks of not getting enough sleep as an adult?

Sleep deprivation, independent of the cause (primary vs secondary sleep disorder) increases the risk of many other disorders, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, mood disorder.

What are some barriers to healthy sleep, and how can we prevent those?

People should try to have a regular sleep schedule and avoid alcohol or drugs abuse. It is also helpful to avoid large meals close to bedtime, and get regular exercise in the morning or afternoon. These are just a few recommendations for a good quality of sleep.

How can you work with your partner to carve out healthy sleep habits if his/her habits are different?

Carving out healthy sleep habits can sometimes be challenging depending on the relationship, and it should be addressed on a case-by-case situation.

Can stress affect your sleep cycle?

Any mood alteration can affect sleep.

There are many techniques to decrease stress and anxiety before bedtime, but if it is not under good control, a mental health specialist should be consulted.

Why is sticking to a regular, recurring sleep schedule important?

Your body and brain like routine, including going to bed at the same time, getting up at the same time, regular time for meals and for other physiologic necessities. When there is no routine, the body and brain will work erratically.

What sorts of issues can arise if you deviate from your usual sleep habits – both short and long-term?

Some difficulties include:

  • Falling asleep or waking up
  • Frequently waking up during the night
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Unpleasant general feeling
  • Poor professional performance
  • Increased risk of accidents

Is exercise also an important factor in helping to achieve healthy sleep habits?

Yes, but exercise should be avoided in the evening, or the body will need longer time to cool down and go to sleep, resulting in difficulties falling asleep.

11 Tips for Better Sleep Hygiene

The following are some great tips to follow for better sleep hygiene.

#1 – Maintain a regular sleep routine.

Go to bed at the same time. Wake up at the same time. Ideally, your schedule should remain the same (+/- 20 minutes) every night of the week.

#2 – Spend the right amount of time in bed.

It is important to spend an appropriate amount of time in bed, not too little, or too excessive. This may vary by individual.

For example: If someone has a problem with daytime sleepiness, they should spend a minimum of eight hours in bed, if they have difficulty sleeping at night, they should limit themselves to 7 hours in bed in order to keep the sleep pattern consolidated.

#3 – Avoid daytime naps.

Napping during the day can disturb the normal pattern of sleep and wakefulness.

#4 – Avoid stimulants close to bedtime.

Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime. While alcohol is well known to speed the onset of sleep, it disrupts sleep in the second half as the body begins to metabolize the alcohol, causing arousal.

#5 – Exercise to promote good sleep.

Vigorous exercise should be taken in the morning or late afternoon. A relaxing exercise, like yoga, can be done before bed to help initiate a restful sleep.

#6 – Avoid large meals too close to bedtime.

Food can be disruptive right before sleep; stay away from large meals close to bedtime. Also dietary changes can cause sleep problems. If someone is struggling with a sleep problem, it’s not a good time to start experimenting with spicy dishes. And, remember, chocolate has caffeine.

#7 – Ensure adequate exposure to natural light.

This is particularly important for older people who may not venture outside as frequently as children and adults.

Light exposure helps maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.

#8 – Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine.

Try to avoid emotionally upsetting conversations and activities before trying to go to sleep. Don’t dwell on, or bring your problems to bed.

#9 – Associate your bed with sleep.

It’s not a good idea to use your bed to watch TV, listen to the radio, or read.

#10 – Create a relaxing sleep environment.

Make sure that the sleep environment is pleasant and relaxing. The bed should be comfortable, the room should not be too hot or cold, or too bright.

#11 – Avoid looking at the time.

If you are a ‘clock watcher’ at night, hide the clock.

About Alberto Santos, MD

Dr. Alberto Santos is a board certified physician in sleep medicine and neurology. He brings decades of experience in treating a broad range of sleep disorders and related neurological conditions – often in partnership with pulmonologists and other specialists.

His specialties include the treatment and diagnosis of sleep disorders including sleep apnea, snoring, CPAP/BiPAP issues, REM behavior disorder, daytime sleepiness and restless leg syndrome.

Schedule an appointment with Dr. Santos today.