On March 14-20, we recognize Sleep Awareness Week. It’s a time to learn the benefits of sleep and focus on trying to get enough of it. Most adults don’t get enough sleep and it can be harmful to both our mental and physical health. But why do you need sleep? And how much sleep do you need?
Why You Need Sleep
Before we answer the big question, we should look at why it’s is so important to our health. Everyone knows they feel worse when they don’t get enough sleep. But why exactly do we need sleep?
As the Sleep Foundation says, sleep is an essential function that allows your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up. Healthy sleep also helps the body remain healthy and stave off diseases. Without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly. This can impair your abilities to concentrate, think clearly, and process memories.
Not getting enough sleep can interfere with your mental and physical health. Sleep deprivation can cause hormonal imbalances and has been linked to certain conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, decreased fertility, and poor mental health.
Now we know why we need sleep. So it’s on to the big question: how much sleep do you need?
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
Now you know why you need sleep. So how much sleep do you need? As with most things, the key to sleep is balance. You want to get in the sweet spot between too little and too much.
As the National Sleep Foundation explains, experts agree that the average person should aim for at least seven hours and no more than nine hours a night. So, the tried and true eight hours guideline still holds.
We mostly talk about sleep loss or deprivation when discussing sleep issues, but sleeping too much can be a problem too.
Healthy Sleep Habits
If there were a magic formula to get the right amount of sleep, we’d let everyone know. But it’s not so simple. One in three people in the U.S. don’t get enough sleep. If you have insomnia or another sleep disorder, you should work with your healthcare team to address it before getting pregnant. But there are some tips that may help you to get more sleep.
- Get sleep between 10 pm and 7 am: This is, of course, dependent on your schedule, but if possible, try to get to bed by 10 p.m. You’ll feel better if you can be awake to get sunlight and can sleep when it’s dark. If that’s not possible, you can try things like blackout curtains and sunrise/light alarms to simulate those conditions at off-times.
- Lay off caffeine by a certain time: In terms of improving sleep habits, you should stop caffeine consumption at least four to six hours before going to sleep.
- Keep sleep patterns regular: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day–even on the weekends. You might be reluctant to give up sleeping in on Sunday morning, but if you get into a routine where you’re getting enough sleep each night, you won’t miss it after a while.
- Relax your mind: You might be used to finishing up some last-minute tasks, reading, or watching a true-crime documentary before bed. But it’s best to skip things that might stay on your mind as you go to bed. If you’re set on watching TV before bed, stick to something light. But make sure the TV and any other devices are off before you actually try to go to sleep as electronics with screens or light can interfere with sleep. And before you shut your eyes, try doing some sort of relaxation technique like meditation or breathing exercises.
- Spend time outdoors: Spending an hour in sunlight can help with your ability to fall asleep and improve its quality. If you need to, break it up into increments that fit into your schedule: have lunch outside, take walks, and play with pets outdoors.
- Avoid supplements or unprescribed sleep aids: Even things that are touted as “natural” like melatonin can interfere with your body’s processes. If you feel you need a supplement or medication to help with sleep, discuss it with a doctor to get their recommendations.
Contact Green Valley OB/GYN
Green Valley OB/GYN has been providing the highest quality of obstetric and gynecological care for over 70 years, offering a comprehensive list of services, including obstetrics and pregnancy care. To set up an appointment or talk about your health, call us at (336) 378-1110 to schedule an appointment.