This year, The National Sleep Foundation will celebrate Sleep Awareness Week starting March 6th. The hope is to spread awareness of the importance of sleep to our health, safety, and productivity.

In theory, we know from our own firsthand experience how important sleep is to our well-being. But lately, I feel like I have been hitting the snooze button more and more. I found out recently that hitting the snooze button can actually make you feel more tired during the day. Dr. Yizhak Kupfer from the Maimonides Medical Center in New York talks about how relying on the snooze button can diminish the positive effects of a good night’s sleep.

When we first wake by the sound of the alarm, we are pulled out of REM sleep, the most restorative sleep stage. REM sleep helps us feel awake and focused for the day. When we try to catch those extra 10 minutes, our bodies start a new phase of REM sleep. Unfortunately, those extra 10 minutes don’t allow enough time to complete the cycle, and our brain can stay in it after we have finally forced ourselves to get up and out of bed. This can throw off our circadian rhythms (internal clock) and cause us to feel tired or sluggish the rest of the day. It’s time to stop hitting snooze. Easier said than done, right?

When we are young, we tend to need more sleep than we do as adults. Ever notice how upset and sometimes “cranky” little ones can get if they miss their nap? As we grow older, it is still important to make sure we get an appropriate amount of sleep for our bodies to function properly.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following for sleep duration based on age.

Newborns: 14 to 17 hours

Infants: 12 to 15 hours

Toddlers: 11 to 14 hours

Preschoolers: 10 to 13 hours

School-aged Children: 9 to 11 hours

Teenagers: 8 to 10 hours

Adults: 7 to 9 hours

Not receiving a sufficient amount of sleep can affect us in a variety of ways. It can cause difficulty with concentration, memory, and stamina. Lack of sleep can wreak havoc not only in our personal lives but also in our work lives. Lack of sleep can cause our productivity during the day to significantly decrease. It can sometimes cause issues on the job, especially if performance suffers as a result. For more information on how sleep can affect us at work and accommodations that may help, see http://askjan.org/media/Sleep.html.

There are certain things that can help us try to get an adequate amount of sleep each night, which in turn will help us to function properly and be productive throughout the day. One of these tips is to develop a bedtime routine. It is easy to think that bedtime routines are only a thing for children, but they can also be important for adults. Having a routine can prepare us and ease us into a restful sleep.

In addition to having a bedtime routine, the environment in which we sleep also plays a key role. The National Sleep Foundation talks about using our senses to create a sleep environment that fits our needs. They base these ideas on the five senses: touch, see, hear, smell, and taste. The following are some examples.

Touch: Getting a good night’s sleep means being comfortable. Things to consider:

  • Adjusting the temperature of the room
  • Using the right type of mattress and pillows
  • Making your bed in the morning

See: Light can affect our body’s circadian rhythms (internal clock) and disrupt our sleep patterns. Things to consider:

  • Using curtains and closing them at bedtime
  • Turning off electronics before settling into bed

Hear: As we sleep, our brains still register and process sounds on a basic level. Noise can disrupt our sleep causing us to wake or move between stages of sleep. This can also cause us to experience changes in heart rate and blood pressure. Things to consider:

  • Turning off the TV while sleeping
  • Using white noise such as a fan or other device to reduce the difference between background noise and “peak” noise, helping you to sleep better

Smell: According to the National Sleep Foundation, some smells may have an effect on our sleep. Things to consider:

  • Periodically changing sheets to ensure freshness
  • Using relaxing scents in the room. Lavender has been shown to decrease heart rate and put us into a relaxing state

Taste: What we eat and drink before bed can also affect our sleep. Things to consider:

  • Avoiding alcohol and caffeine leading up to bedtime
  • If hungry before bed, eating a light snack as opposed to a meal

You can find additional information on bedroom environment from the National Sleep Foundation here https://sleepfoundation.org/bedroom/.

Practicing healthy sleep habits can help our bodies continue to function properly, and help us stay alert and ready to tackle whatever the day throws our way. It is time to take our sleep seriously and listen to our bodies. What better time to start than National Sleep Awareness Week 2016?

References:

National Sleep Foundation

The Snooze Button- Friend or Foe Maimonides Medical Center

Why Hitting The Snooze Button Will Screw Up Your Entire Day The Huffington Post