Sleep – that beautiful, evasive sweet slumber

Whoever coined the term, “slept like a baby” was either an idiot or never met a baby.  I was up with one of mine last night for absolutely no reason except that he wanted some company.  I finally got him back into his crib, curled up under my blankets and drifted off into a two hour long worry session about absolutely nothing.  I agonized over everything from are the Christmas tree lights still on to will Santa get everything done in time to will my son’s need for company in the middle of the night translate into a predilection for the red-light district. There was not one thing that I could do at 3am to change or remedy my concerns and yet, I lay there staring at the clock until 5am.  I am now exhausted and the bags under my eyes are too big for carry-on and have to be checked.  The only positive is that I now have my topic for the week and (this is weird), when I started to look for some sleep stats, I learned that this week is Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.  Sometimes a plan just comes together.

How much sleep do you need?

Scientists have been studying sleep for about 25 years and still, no one can say why we need it.  But, you don’t need an expert to know that whatever the reason, we do need it, sometimes desperately.  But, how much is a healthy amount?

1. For adults, there is no right answer.  Sleep is very individual and while some adults need only 7 hours, others rely on 8 or 9 to function optimally.  A good test is how long it takes you to fall asleep.  If you fall asleep in less than 5 minutes, you are sleep deprived.  The optimal time from lying down to sleeping is 10-15 minutes.  If it takes you longer to fall asleep, you may be getting to much sleep (yeah right) or more likely, you are suffering from insomnia.

2.  Sleep in children – It has been estimated that newborns (0 -2 months) need 12-18 hours of sleep each day, infants (3-11 months) need 14-15 hours, toddlers (ages 1-3) need 12-14 hours, preschoolers (ages 3-5) need about 12 hours and that children ages 6-12 need 10-11 hours each night.

3. Teenagers and sleep – We know that adolescents can sleep all day but why?  Common thinking is that they are lazy and on some type of drug but there is new research that shows that in addition to their hormones and their skin being all messed up, their circadian rhythm is out of whack.  They are not tired at night so they can’t fall asleep but they need about 8 1/2 to 9 hours of sleep so they have a hard time waking up in the morning.  Let us cut them some slack.  There is a lot going on in those awkward bodies.  I wouldn’t do it again for all the money in the world.  Usually, I give our Creator a lot of credit, but I think he really dropped the ball on the 13 – 19 year old set.

4. What determines your sleep needs? Your sleep requirements are based not only on your individual characteristics but also on how much sleep your body needs to make up.  The amount that you need to function optimally is known as your basal sleep need and the amount of extra sleep that you need because of illness, poor sleep in the previous nights, stress, etc. is know as sleep debt. Recent research shows that unlike the credit card bills that are piling up, you can recover your sleep debt.

5.  If you don’t get enough sleep … You know about lack of productivity, general crankiness, increased probability to yell at your loved ones for no reason and an increased need for coffee.  But, did you know that if you have poor sleep habits, you are also at increased risk for obesity, depression, heart disease, infection and stupidity?

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