We Talk About Sleep
Sometimes, it all most seems like America is obsessed with sleep. You’ve heard it all. Turn off the lights. Turn down the thermostat. Stay away from screens – from the TV to your smartphone — for at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Don’t drink caffeine after 3 p.m. Those are the self-help tips. Then, there are the devices. Watches that track sleep. Alarm clocks that mimic sunset. Electric blankets that start out cozy but shut themselves off, so the sleeper can enjoy a cool night’s rest. A good night’s sleep – it is sought after, but what it is and why do we want one?
What Are the Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep
Start with a longer life – both too little sleep and too much sleep have been associated with a shorter lifespan. Now, too little or too much sleep could be a cause of shortened life spans – or it could be an effect from the other things – like illness — that keep people sleeping too little or too much and can lead to a shorter life. Moving on to the other benefits. Studies show that being rested improves your memory. A good night’s sleep can help you be more attentive, more creative and less stressed. It even is a factor in maintaining a healthy weight. There’s no doubt that good sleep is good for you.
The Experts Speak
Who are the experts? They’re a mixed group. The National Sleep Foundation brought together experts on sleep, anatomy and physiology. Then, they added experts in pediatrics, neurology, gynecology for the women and gerontology for the seniors. They wanted representation from different scientific areas to agree on what a good night’s rest was. Dr. Charles Czeilser, PhD, MD, chairman of the board of the National Sleep Foundation, chief of sleep and circadian disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Baldino Professor of Sleep Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, said “This is the first time that any professional organization has developed age-specific recommended sleep durations based on a rigorous, systematic review of the world scientific literature relating sleep duration to health, performance and safety.”
The study only kept one of the previous recommendations – the one for adults 26 to 64. They added two new age groups, young adults (18 to 25 years old) and 65+. Each of the other age groups showed an increase in the recommended hours of sleep, except for a slightly narrower range for infants. Here are their recommendations for the length of a good night’s rest.
• 0 to 3 months: 14 to 17 hours
• 4 to 11 months: 12 to 15 hours
• Toddlers, 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours
• Preschoolers, 3 to 5 years old: 10 to 13 hours
• Teenagers, 14 to 16 years old: 8 to 10 hours
• Young adults, 18 to 25 years old: 7 to 9 hours
• Adults, 26 to 64 ye old: 7 to 9 hours
• Seniors, 65+, 7 to 8 hours
How to Define that Good Night’s Rest
We’ve been told to get one. Get a good night’s sleep. You can finish that statement in many ways – because you have a big test tomorrow, because you’ve got to close the big deal or, even, because tomorrow we’re leaving on vacation. But, what is a good night’s sleep? The experts defined that, too. Here are their criteria:
• You fall asleep in 30 minutes or less.
• You don’t wake up more than once during the night.
• If you do wake up, you’re back asleep within 20 minutes.
• You spend 85% of your time in bed asleep.
That’s the measurements they say mark a good night’s rest. How do you compare?
Everyone Can Agree
One fact remains, your mattress counts. How do you know if it’s hurting your ability to sleep? Do you sleep better in a hotel? Is it more than 10 years old? Does it have obvious faults like a canyon in the middle? Today, you have many mattress-buying choices. You can go to a mattress store and try out an innerspring mattress or a foam mattress. But, there’s another choice. You can buy a supportive foam mattress on the Internet. The advantage? You’re likely to pay less – much less – for a quality mattress. But, that’s just the beginning. Internet mattress sites want to make sure you’re happy. They’ll give you as many as 120 days to test your new mattress. Don’t like it? You’ll get a full refund! A good mattress is the foundation for a good night’s rest. So, don’t let an old mattress stand between you and your rest. Especially, now that you know what a good night’s sleep is.