As we have celebrated the New Year, many of us have made plans to take better care of ourselves, and those resolutions should include trying to get better sleep.
A third of American adults say they’re not getting the recommended number of sleep hours each night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Generally, healthy adults need a minimum 7 to 9 hours per night up to age 65. Older adults benefit from at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.
“When we don’t get enough sleep, we can experience a number of health effects,” said Dr. Cynthia Fisher, Family Medicine Physician at ThedaCare Physicians-Oshkosh. “We may feel tired or fatigued, and we also can become more forgetful, more irritable, have difficulty concentrating or feel less motivated.”
In the long term, lack of proper sleep can contribute to serious health problems, including obesity, lowered immunity, heart problems, diabetes, depression and anxiety, Dr. Fisher said.
“The lack of sleep can also affect our hunger hormones and therefore what we choose to eat, causing us to reach for more carbs that contribute to weight gain,” she said. “And that weight gain can lead to these serious illnesses.”
Proper sleep is important because it gives our minds and bodies time to recharge and recover from the day. Your brain has a chance to sort information during rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep, helping you store long-term memories and allowing your body to enter a restorative process. The benefits of sleep include repairing tissue and muscle, improving memory function and the immune system, improving emotional processing and exercise performance, and decreasing stress. Better sleep also can help improve a person’s sex drive and fertility.
While disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome and other issues cause about 70 million people a year to experience trouble sleeping, many of us are not getting enough sleep because of lifestyle factors, Dr. Fisher said.
“As a whole, we’re spending too much time in front of screens,” she said. “We’re using our phones, tablets and computers too late into the evening, which activates our brains. Electronic devices also emit ‘blue light,’ which interferes with the sleep hormone melatonin.”
Some tips for getting better sleep include:
- Turning off electronic devices at least an hour before bed.
- Participating in activities that can relax you, such as reading, folding laundry or taking a warm bath.
- Keeping a consistent bedtime each night. If you’re in the habit of staying up late, move back your bedtime in small increments, such as 15 or 20 minutes, to a time that will allow you to get at least 7 hours of consistent sleep.
- Changing your device settings in the evening. Most electronic devices allow you to automatically change the screen lighting to a “night” mode, altering the light emitted from the screen to a softer color.
Good Sleep Habits for Children
Dr. Fisher noted that children need more sleep than adults, with babies needing the most sleep.
“Children can experience the same health problems as adults when they’re not getting enough sleep,” Dr. Fisher said. “Irritability or a lack of concentration can be early indicators that your children are not getting the recommended number of hours.”
Limiting screen time and modeling good sleep behavior can help your children establish good habits early on, she said.
For children, the CDC provides these sleep recommendations:
- 14-17 hours for infants up to age 3 months
- 12-16 hours for babies up to 1 year old
- 11-14 hours for toddlers to age 2
- 10-13 hours up to age 5
- 9-12 hours up to age 12
- 8-10 hours per night for teens to age 18
Dr. Fisher added that it’s also important to establish good bedtime routines.
“Kids should start to wind down about an hour before their bedtime,” she said. “For younger children, a consistent routine helps them understand it’s time for bed. That might include a bath or shower, brushing teeth and cuddling/reading with a parent.”
All children, regardless of age, should be off their electronic devices for 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime.
“Our health and wellness will benefit if we make good sleep a priority,” said Dr. Fisher. “As we start a new year, I hope families can support each other through positive sleep habits, helping encourage well-being for the whole person.”
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in northeast and central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 18 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their best lives through easy access to individualized care, supporting each person’s own health and wellbeing. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand unique needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care
Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.
For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.