VOLUME 3: Sleep
WANT TO GET MORE ZZZ’S? READ THESE.
Is Sleep Important?
We spend about a third of our lives sleeping. Unfortunately, millions of us do not get the quality of sleep a healthy lifestyle requires because we do not understand our sleep cycles. Sleeping to little can increase your risk of dementia, depression, anxiety, and memory loss. Conversely, too much sleep may increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and stroke. Developing a successful sleep strategy is crucial to better health.
In this edition, Matt writes about age-specific sleeping recommendations for optimal health and provides helpful hints on how to improve your sleep cycle. Andrew shares some clever thoughts on how to build a successful sleep strategy. While Chris walks us through the relationship between exercise and sleep. And, Jimmy, gives us a simple approach to better health and better sleep!
Wishing you all restorative sleep and a wonderful start to your spring!
Sleep Better // Feel Better // Live Better!
Sleep Recommendations & Requirements by Matt Smith
Sleep is a very important part of our everyday lives and it is something that we cannot function or live without. Sleep is necessary to:
- Maintain good physical and mental health,
- Supply energy,
- Improve critical thinking, the ability to learn, and memory,
- Restore the body and strengthen every physiological system, and
- Improve mood and help prevent the symptoms of anxiety/stress and depression.
With research demonstrating that sleep is essential at any age, how much sleep do we really need to receive all these benefits? The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) is an excellent resource. Their guidelines serve as a “rule-of-thumb” for the ideal amount of sleep, while recognizing ranges that can vary from person to person. Recommendations are broken down into 9 different age groups and hourly ranges. These include:
- Newborn: 0-3 Mo. > 14-17 Hours,
- Infant: 4-11 Mo. > 12-15 Hours,
- Toddler: 1-2 Years > 11-14 Hours,
- Preschool: 3-5 Years >10-13 Hours,
- School-age: 6-13 Years > 9-11 Hours,
- Teen: 14-17 Years > 8-10 Hours,
- Young Adult/Adult: 18-64 Years > 7-9 Hours, and
- Older Adult: 65+ > 7-8 Hours.
So, how much sleep do YOU need? And what should YOU consider in determining your optimal range? First, start with your age and the NSF recommendations. Then, consider your current sleeping pattern, overall health, daily activities, nutrition, exercise practices, and work schedule. Some questions to ask yourself: “Am I happy, productive, and healthy on my current sleep schedules?”, “Do I require more hours to get into ‘high gear’?”, “Do I have co-existing health issues?”, “Do I have a high level of energy expenditure or am I exhausted most days?”, “Do I frequently play sports or work in a labor-intensive job?”, and “Do I depend on caffeine to get through the day?”.
Understanding that too little or too much sleep can both be detrimental. Your current sleeping pattern and how you answer the above questions should help guide you towards an optimal sleep range. Once you have a nightly goal based on hours, it is time to start planning your routine to make it a reality!
The most important thing you can do is make sleep a priority. Do not let other activities cut into your sleep time. It may be tempting or difficult at first, but with the improvements in your mental health and physical function, it will be worth the effort! Improving your “sleep hygiene” is a great way to get better rest and can include:
- Sticking to the same sleep schedule every day,
- Practicing relaxing pre-bed routines to make it easier to fall asleep,
- Choosing the right mattress that is supportive and comfortable,
- Minimizing light and sound distractions while also optimizing bedroom temperature,
- Disconnecting electronic devices like phones and laptops 30 minutes before bed, and
- Carefully monitoring your intake of caffeine and alcohol.
Getting restorative sleep is a key part of the equation for a healthy lifestyle. Remember that it is not just about sleep quantity, because quality matters too! It is possible to get the hours that you need but not feel refreshed because your sleep is fragmented or “non-restorative”. Improving your “sleep hygiene” can help boost both the quantity and quality of your sleep. Be sure to check out the National Sleep Foundation online for any other questions you may have, and as always Move Better, Feel Better, and Live Better!
Sleep Better // Live Better!
-Matt Smith PT, DPT
Want to get better sleep? by Andrew McInnis
Very few of us rarely get that full night of sleep without tossing and turning and waking up multiple times. However, when we do, we feel great, revived, and refreshed like nothing can stop us. So, how can you improve your chances of a great night’s sleep? Here is the trick, try these simple strategies to sleep better throughout the night!
The simplest way is to just set a bedtime! Good habits are made by routine and active mindset to stick to a pattern. By telling yourself you will go to bed by a certain time and doing it, you are creating a schedule to allow the restorative benefits of sleep to happen. At first, you may not fall asleep at the set time, however your body will begin to adapt, and you will soon start to fall asleep at the time you have set. This is the first step to a great habit!
Next, develop a nightly bedtime routine that decreases screen time 1-2 hours before bedtime. Read a book, write in your journal, or start a hobby like knitting or crafts. By decreasing your screen-time you are reducing the amount of exposure to stimulating blue light. Blue light decreases the release of melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep patterns. If you must use your phone, then set it to “night mode.” This setting puts your phone into a softer tone of yellow, so the screen is not as harsh on your eyes. If possible, put the phone down and avoid all screen time before bed.
My personal favorite is to exercise regularly. Most of us do not get the recommended amount of daily exercise unless we have a demanding job. Exercise is a healthy habit that not only stresses our muscles but also helps us unwind and destress. By performing exercise daily, whether intensely or just moderately, we maximize the good physiological effects of exercise to help us fall into restorative sleep.
Lastly, eat a healthy balanced diet. This would consist of whole foods, fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and all lean meats. All these foods have the essential vitamins that our body needs, whereas processed and boxed foods contain empty calories and sugars that effect out blood sugar and keep us up at night. In addition, hydration is just as important! Be sure to attempt to at least drink half your body weight in ounces to stay proper hydrated throughout the day.
All these strategies are easy to do and do not take much effort to perform. However, the hardest step, as in most cases, is making the commitment and sticking to it! Start simple and attempt just one. Success builds upon success. As you accomplish one, start another. You will be well on your way to sleeping, feeling, and living better!
The Relationship between Sleep and Exercise by Chris Brandt
Research demonstrates a strong correlation, or even a “bi-directional relationship” between sleep and exercise. In other words, poor sleep can lead to decreased activity levels while regular exercise alleviates many sleep-related problems.
For example, for many the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in decreased overall activity, increased stress, and poor nutrition. And the effect on sleeping patterns has been dramatic. Many have struggled to fall asleep or developed poor sleeping patterns.
One of the easiest ways to counter this is to focus on exercise as a path towards restorative sleep. A successful program can benefit many facets of sleep. A recent study showed that moderate-intensity workouts four times a week for six weeks increased sleep for participants by an average of 75 minutes.
How does this work? Exercise helps you fall asleep faster by regulating the hormone adenosine, which makes us feel sleepy, and by maintaining your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s internal clock (your awake and sleep cycles).
I am often asked what time of day should I exercise? Recent research suggests that the habit of exercise is more impactful than the time of performance. Now, I would not begin training for a marathon right before bed, but moderate-intensity exercise (yoga, stationary bike, walking on treadmill) with at least an hour before you plan to sleep may help you sleep better.
Keeping sleep times consistent and averaging the recommended hours of sleep (6-8hrs for a grown adult) will help with recovery and performance in the gym. While decreased sleep time will not necessarily change your performance in the short term, research does show a strong connection with decreased endurance. Incidentally, oversleep can inhibit performance, so consistency is key!
Many patients ask, what is more important, an extra hour at the gym or an extra hour of sleep? The truth is, they are both important. Priority should be given to sleep but developing a consistent plan of both exercise and sleep strategies will give the most benefit long term.
To your health!
Lifestyle Habits for Better Sleep by Jimmy Dunn
As the father of a toddler, I find myself keenly aware of the challenges of irregular sleep. It can be devastating. Productivity suffers, stress levels increase, and healthy habits are difficult to sustain when your sleep is interrupted often, or completely absent. As children, we have little control of what is keeping us awake. Our minds our developing and our bodies are expanding at an incredible pace. But as adults, we have more control of our habits to set ourselves up for a better night’s sleep.
Choosing a healthy activity, better nutrition, and implementing a routine are keys to better health. Now that the weather is perfect, get outside! Studies show that being in nature even for a short time can reduce the stress on your nervous system and lead to more productive sleep patterns. Going for a walk or playing at the park are great! Keep it simple and remember the goal is to choose something that requires resting from.
Fuel yourself with the proper nutrition and stay away from stimulants like caffeine and sugar. Pick whole foods while avoiding processed and fast food.
And sleeping truly is best when it is a pattern. Practicing a routine and sticking to it leads to greater quality rest than a more volatile sleep schedule.
Make better sleep a priority. It is a tremendous investment in your overall health and achieving it will allow you to recover better, feel better, and live better.