by Erica B. San Diego, MARCH 2021
Time and time again, sleep medicine professionals and researchers came up against the belief that sleep was not important enough in personal health and well-being to be a priority. That coupled with society’s 24/7 flow, there are many awareness events organized to celebrate the importance of healthy sleep in March. These include World Sleep Day, Sleep Awareness Week, and National Sleep Awareness Month.
Sleep is an essential function that allows your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up. Healthy sleep also helps the body remain healthy and stave off diseases. Without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly. This can impair your abilites to concentrate, think clearly, and process memories.
Most of us follow a sleep-waking pattern of sleeping for 6-8 hours followed by staying awake for approximately 16-18. This is a relatively recent invention. For most of human history, our ancestors engaged in two rounds of sleep, called segmented sleep or bimodal sleep, in addition to an afternoon nap. The first round of sleep would occur for four or five hours after dinner, followed by an wake period of one or more hours in the middle of the night, followed by a second period of four or five hours of sleep. That middle-of-the-night waking might have evolved to help ward off nocturnal predators. Bimodal sleep appears to be a biological norm that was subverted by the invention of artificial light, and there is scientific evidence that the bimodal sleep-plus-nap regime is healthier and promotes greater satisfaction, efficiency, and performance.
Regardless of whether you sleep straight through the night or adopt the ancient bimodal sleep pattern, how much sleep should you get? Rough guidelines from research suggest the following, but these are just averages – some individuals really do require more or less than what is indicated, and this appears to be hereditary.
AVERAGE SLEEP NEEDS
|Newborns (0-2 months)||12-18 hours|
|Infants (3-11 months)||14-15 hours|
|Toddlers (1-3 years)||12-14 hours|
|Preschoolers (3-5 years)||11-13 hours|
|Children (5-10 years)||10-11 hours|
|Preteens and Teenagers (10-17)||8 1/2 – 9 1/4 hours|
Here are some guidelines for a good night’s sleep:
- Go to bed at the same time every night. Wake up at the same time every morning. Set an alarm fixed clock if necessary. If you have to stay up late one night, still get up at your fixed time the next morning – in the short run, the consistency of your cycle is more important than the amount of sleep.
- Sleep in a cool, dark room. Cover your windows if necessary to keep out light.
- Take five- or ten- minute “power naps” which yield significant cognitive enhancement, improvement in memory, and increased productivity.
- Avoiding sleep in when you have had enough sleep.
Levitin, D. J. (2014). The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload. New York, NY: Dutton, pp.189-190, 192-193
About the writer:
Erica B. San Diego. Handling Corporate and Government Benefits for MPT South, Cavitex, and CCLEC. A brand new MOM, PATIENT and Empathetic.