In our fast-paced world, sleep deprivation is more prevalent than ever before, and this lack can have profound effects on our health. It is thus necessary to actively ensure that we’re getting in enough shut-eye.
Healthy Sleep Hours
The amount of sleep we require varies with age and from person to person. The average adult needs between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night to function optimally. While it may be difficult for older adults to sleep through the night, naps during the day can help make up for this. Teenagers can require anywhere between 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night and children can require between 9 to 11 hours. Between 10-13 hours daily are healthy sleep hours for pre-schoolers, for toddlers it is 11 to 14 hours daily and babies may need up to 17 hours.
Building Healthy Sleep Habits
Inculcate these sleep hygiene practices and reap the benefits of good sleep. Try to maintain a fixed sleep schedule even on weekends and vacations. Minimizing your exposure to bright, blue lights closer to bedtime and exposing yourself to sunlight in the mornings can help you better control your circadian rhythms. It is also important to make sure you’re getting regular and adequate exercise.
Avoiding caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and heavy meals in the late evening can also promote better sleep. Making sure you have a clean and comfortable place to sleep can also work wonders. It is also a good sleep habit to avoid screens and electronic devices for a minimum of half an hour before bedtime. Rather than working or scrolling through your phone up until you fall asleep, try a calming activity like reading, reflection or meditation instead.
Diet and Healthy Sleep
It has been shown that deficiencies in vitamin B1, folate, phosphorus, zinc, iron, selenium and magnesium was accompanied by shorter sleep duration. Deficiencies in vitamin D, vitamin C, calcium and carotene resulted in difficulty falling asleep and maintaining sleep. Conversely, foods rich in zinc were associated with higher sleep efficiency and faster sleep onset in healthy adults. One study also showed an improvement in sleep quality, duration and efficiency with a vitamin D supplement in adults with sleep disorders.
Interestingly, kiwi fruit was shown to improve sleep efficiency and duration. And salmon and other oily fish were related to better daily functioning and sleep quality.
Another study showed unhealthy eating habits like post dinner snacking was associated with poor sleep quality in children. In general, a healthy sleep diet includes a mix of natural foods with a healthy portion of fibre from fruit, vegetables and whole grains. It also helps to maintain a fixed meal schedule.
Health Benefits of Getting Enough Sleep
A good night’s sleep is essential for us to be able to think clearly, and be alert and attentive through the day. It also plays an important role in emotional regulation, and sleep deprivation has been shown to increase a tendency towards negative emotions and stress. A person who is sleep deprived is likely to have extreme reactions to even mild stressors. Inadequate and poor quality sleep also affects our memory, attention to detail, problem-solving and reasoning capacity, and thereby our overall productivity.
Sleep is as essential for the body as it is for the mind. It affects our immune system, growth, breathing, weight, appetite, cardiovascular health and blood pressure. Not getting enough sleep has been linked to many mental and physical health problems, including those that stem from an impaired immune system. Our immune system is designed to protect us from colds, flu, and other ailments, but when it is not functioning properly, it fails to do its job.
The hormones released while we sleep help to repair our cells and tissues. Lack of sleep has been linked with increased risk of infections, heart disease, obesity and can even bring about diabetic-like conditions. Thus overall, good sleep improves immunity.
Here’s to a good night’s rest!
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