Regular Sleep, Healthy Future: Sleep Awareness Week

March 18, 2021

March 14-20 is recognized as Sleep Awareness Week. The World Sleep Society’s theme for this year is “Regular Sleep, Healthy Future.” putting emphasis on the benefits of regular sleep on overall health and well-being, including mental health. 

Studies have found that bedtime and rise times are associated with better sleep quality for all ages. Regular sleepers have better moods, psychomotor performance, and academic achievement. 

10-18% of adults in the US experience chronic sleep problems and those problems are common in those with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and ADHD. 

When we sleep, we go through a sleep cycle. Our body temperature drops, muscles relax, and our breathing and heart-rate slow down. Getting to the deepest stage of sleep produces changes that help our immune systems. REM Sleep allows us to dream. In this case, our body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing increase. REM Sleep enhances learning and memory skills. 

Disruptions in sleep affect levels of neurotransmitters and stress hormones, wreaking havoc on the brain, impairing thinking and emotional regulation. These disruptions can amplify the effects of psychiatric disorders and vice versa. 

Good Sleep Hygiene

There are steps you can take to help your sleep hygiene. The World Sleep Society recommends the following 10 steps to help improve your quality of sleep. 

  1. Fix a bedtime and an awakening time.
  2. If you are in the habit of taking a nap, do not exceed 45 minutes of daytime sleep.
  3. Avoid excessive alcohol ingestion 4 hours before bedtime and do not smoke.
  4. Avoid caffeine 6 hours before bedtime. This includes coffee, tea and many sodas, as well as chocolate.
  5. Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods 4 hours before bedtime. A light snack before bed is acceptable.
  6. Exercise regularly, but not right before bed.
  7. Use comfortable bedding.
  8. Find a comfortable temperature setting for sleeping and keep the room well ventilated.
  9. Block out all distracting noise and eliminate as much light as possible.
  10. Reserve the bed for sleep. Don’t use the bed as an office, workroom or recreation room.
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