Sleep is crucial to our overall health and wellbeing. Yet, rest seems in short supply. In a 2019 world sleep day survey, over 60% of the participants report inconsistent sleep. Thankfully, there are potential solutions to improve our quality of rest.
As you read the opening lines of this post, you are probably wondering, what is restful sleep and how does one get restful sleep?
The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine in 2016 published a consensus statement on the recommended number of hours of sleep for the pediatric population (4 months to 18 years old). For example, teenagers 13 to 18-years-old should get between 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night per 24 hours. If the children consistently sleep the recommended number of hours, they should benefit from "improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, mental and physical health."
Before the 2016 publication for the pediatric population, in 2015, the journal published recommendations for adults—the author's proposal for adults, consistent 7 hours of sleep per night. Yes, the seven hours is a recommendation, but are you falling asleep during the daytime, watching television, reading, struggling with concentration, or even driving drowsy? Or do you rely on energy boosters to stay awake during the day? If the answer here is yes, you are likely not getting enough sleep.
Consistent restful sleep is imperative for excellent physical and mental health. However, in contemporary societies, rest is akin to a scarce commodity. There is always that next thing we need to accomplish, so our brain never really seems to shut off. Consequently, we experience issues with the duration, continuity, and depth of our sleep.
Insufficient sleep affects our mental and physical health. The researchers at the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine have linked a lack of restorative sleep to:
Cognitive function (concentration, attentiveness, alertness)
Drowsy driving/driver sleepiness
It may not be easy to pinpoint the reason for your sleep disturbances, but inadequate sleep may result from stress or worry, work or school schedule, lifestyle, or a sleep disorder.
Some of us may likely be affected by Dyssomnia Sleep Disorders (primary sleep disorders), which impacts our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, experience excessive sleepiness because of disturbance in the amount of sleep, quality of sleep, and the timing of our sleep. Primary sleep disorders include:
Primary insomnia – trouble initiating or maintaining sleep; the amount of sleep is not restful because of intermittent waking and returning to sleep.
Primary hypersomnia – excessive sleepiness; you may sleep anywhere from 8 to 12 hours during the night but have trouble waking up in the morning. Daytime naps tend to last longer than an hour, but the sleep is not restful, so you still feel sleepy.
Narcolepsy – irresistible attacks of unintended sleep in inappropriate situations (while driving, in conversation). The person with narcolepsy will fall asleep during periods of low-stimulation activities (while reading, watching tv). The sleep can last from 10 – 20 minutes or up to an hour if no one attempts to wake the person.
Breathing-related sleep disorder – is a disruption in sleep due to a sleep-related breathing condition such as apnea.
Circadian rhythm sleep disorder – is a recurring pattern of sleep disturbance in excessive sleepiness brought on by a mismatch in your sleep-wake schedule or circadian sleep-wake pattern. English please, you develop a routine of falling asleep late at night and waking up late in the day. Consequently, you have trouble falling asleep and waking up at a desired earlier time. Changes in your work schedule, frequently changing from night to day shift, so you experience sleepiness when you should be awake and vice versa.
There are also Parasomnia Sleep Disorders. These disorders are set apart by abnormal or psychological occurrences during sleep. Parasomnias include:
Nightmare disorder – is frightening dreams that cause the person to awake from sleep. The dream sequences are elaborate and terrifying. The dream's content can be lengthy, and you are in imminent danger from something/someone in your vision. The nightmares can also be a result of experiencing a traumatic event.
Sleep terror disorder –waking abruptly from your sleep in a panic. An episode of sleep terror can last from 1 – 10 minutes of intense fear. It is difficult to comfort the person, and the person may not recall the specifics of the dream but can provide fragments of the vision.
Sleepwalking disorder – is characterized by repeated episodes of complex motor movements during sleep. In mild occurrences of sleepwalking, referred to as confusional arousal, you may sit up in bed, look about or pick up some random item. However, there are episodes where you get out of bed, walk around the house, eat, talk, and try to run away from some perceived threat. In the morning, you may only have a fragmented recall of your behaviors.
To be diagnosed with a sleep disorder, you must be experiencing clinically significant problems with sleep and your activities of daily living. The mental health or medical provider will consider the duration, frequency of your symptoms. In addition, if there are any precipitants (recent changes) to cause the sleep disturbance.
Suggestions for restorative sleep:
No caffeine or caffeinated products before bedtime.
Do not consume large meals before going to bed.
Make sure your bedroom is quiet and comfortable.
Remove or do not use electronic devices (televisions, cellphones, computers) from your bedroom.
Do not use your bed for relaxation; otherwise, you associate your bed with wakefulness.
When possible, stick to a consistent sleep and wake-up routine.
Limit or avoid long daytime naps.
Spend time outside in the sunlight.
No alcohol consumption before bed.
Sleep hygiene is crucial for people of all ages. Sometimes it may prove challenging to get restorative sleep, but consistent healthy sleep supports overall health. Since several issues could affect your rest, it is valuable to consult with your physician or mental health provider or make lifestyle changes that support a consistent sleep routine.
Stay Naturally Curious
American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders 4th edition.