March 6th to 13th is National Sleep Awareness Week.
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) sponsors the week (#7Days4BetterSleep) to raise awareness of the health benefits of a good night’s sleep.
As if we didn’t know!
But if you need a reminder, here’s a TED-Ed video about the effects of sleep deprivation:
Good sleep habits are best learned at a young age. If you are a parent, help your kids find a healthy balance between all their activities and their sleep needs.
The NSF has lots of information about sleep, as well as sleep tips and how to help infants, small children and teens get a better night’s sleep.
Poor sleep has such a negative impact on our overall health, and unfortunately it’s also become a big money-maker for the health care industry through sleep disorder clinics, sleeping pills and CPAP machines.
I’ve written several posts on the topic that stress trying to make lifestyle changes to improve your sleep pattern before opting for drugs or other expensive solutions.
- The CPAP machine – An American success story?
- Melatonin – Not a sleeping pill for children
- Blue light and sleep
The NSF offers the following basic sleep hygiene guidelines:
- Avoid napping during the day. It can disturb the normal pattern of sleep and wakefulness.
- 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.
- Exercise can 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 night’s sleep.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Associate your bed with sleep. It’s not a good idea to use your bed to watch TV, listen to the radio, or read.
- 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.
It’s important to know that sleep problems are rarely solved overnight. Patience and perseverance are key.
More sleep resources: