From Our Team
The Importance of Sleep
Two weeks ago, my wife and I are celebrated the birth of our son. Two weeks into parenthood and I’ve had much opportunity to ponder the value of sleep. Apparently, I’m not alone. Many El Pasoans do not get enough sleep on a regular basis. A 2008 study conducted by the Texas Department of State Health Services found that 45% of El Paso adults did not get enough sleep on five or more nights in the last month.
It is easy to take for granted the many benefits sleep contributes to our health and well-being. Sleep affects our mood and ability to cope with stress and frustration. Adequate sleep improves concentration. One study found that about 20 percent of serious car crashes are associated with driver sleepiness. Moreover, sleep has been shown to be protective against chronic diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
report that consistent good night’s rest can reduce the risk of diabetes, hypertension, depression and obesity. Interestingly, night shift workers are more likely, than their day shift peers, to have heart disease, digestive disorders, and infertility. One possible explanation is lack of sleep; night shift workers may find it difficult to get adequate sleep during the day.
For children and youth, adequate sleep is essential. Children with inadequate sleep have been shown to have higher risk of injuries, obesity, and hyperactivity. Studies in Minnesota and Rhode Island have even found an association between students’ grades and sleep. Students who received A’s averaged more sleep than their peers who received B’s, students with B’s averaged more sleep than students who received C’s, and so on. The evidence was convincing enough to persuade many school districts around the U.S. to move their start times back 30-60 minutes to facilitate additional sleep. Sleep needs vary from person to person, and between age groups. In general, children in preschool should sleep between 10 and 12 hours. School aged children and teens need at least 9 hours of sleep a night. Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
The recommendations for getting adequate sleep may seem obvious: go to bed at the same time each night; make sure your bedroom is a quiet, dark and relaxing environment; make sure your bed is comfortable; remove all TVs and computers from the bedroom, and avoid large meals before bedtime. The recommendations for adolescents and young adults include: avoid caffeinated drinks after lunch; avoid “all-nighters” to study; and while sleeping in on weekends is permissible, try not to sleep 2 hours past your usual wake time, to avoid extreme disruptions to your sleeping and waking pattern.
Likely, it will be many weeks before our newborn sleeps through the night. Until then, I’ll be seeking strategies to promote regular sleep, both his and my own. Dr. Michael Twery, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health, explains the basic principle of regular, adequate sleep: “What it boils down to is what works for you. A dark room that’s quiet and comfortable is the best starting point, and if counting sheep helps, by all means, count them.”
The following links have information about helping your children and yourself to get adequate sleep:
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