Diet and exercise often are touted as ways to maintain or improve our health. Sometimes, however, people don’t give adequate sleep its due attention.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per day. Adolescents need 8.5 to nine hours of sleep. Children ages five to 12 need nine to 11 hours of sleep. Toddlers and infants need more sleep.
CDC researchers reported that about 10 per cent of the respondents in a telephone survey experienced inadequate sleep every day for the preceding 30 days. About 29.6 per cent of the respondents reported no days of inadequate sleep in the preceding 30 days. Everyone else was somewhere in between.
Long-term insufficient sleep can put us at risk of several diseases, including diabetes and heart disease, and can affect our mental health.
For example, researchers have shown that getting ample sleep can improve blood sugar control among those with Type 2 diabetes. High blood pressure, stroke and an irregular heartbeat are more common among people with inadequate sleep.
Inadequate sleep also is linked with depression. Sometimes achieving a more regular sleep pattern can help alleviate the symptoms.
Research has linked inadequate sleep with being overweight. Two appetite-managing hormones vary in their levels depending on how well rested you are.
Leptin is a hormone that tells your brain that you’re full, but its level falls when you are overly tired. Gherlin is a hormone that tells your brain you’re hungry, but its level increases with fatigue.
Stay healthy and well rested with these tips:
Don’t nap after 3 p. m., even if you are really tired. Take a walk or divert yourself from snoozing on the couch.
Stay on a schedule with your sleep pattern. Go to bed and get up close to the same time on weeknights and weekends. Be sure your bedroom is quiet, dark and relaxing. Be sure the temperature is right, not too warm or cold.
Limit caffeine intake from colas and coffee, especially late in the day.
Avoid nicotine as much as possible. Nicotine acts as a stimulant.
If you exercise in the evening, finish at least two hours before bedtime.
Avoid bright lights in the evening. Your brain may think that morning has arrived.
Avoid large meals or large amounts of beverages close to bedtime. If you’re hungry, have a light snack 30 minutes before bed. Have a balanced snack with carbohydrates and protein, such as low-fat yogurt and graham crackers. Tryptophan, an amino acid in protein-rich foods, such as milk products, is associated with making us feel sleepy.
If you can’t sleep after 20 minutes, get up and do some relaxing activity.
Avoid nightcaps (alcoholic drinks). Drinking alcohol may make you sleepy. However, you may wake up when the effects wear off.
If you have persistent issues with sleeping, see a health-care professional.
– Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, L. R. D., is a North Dakota State
University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
and associate professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences