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The Connection Between Sleep and Overall Wellbeing: Science, Tips, and Tricks

Updated: Sep 17, 2023


As I travel on this journey to health and wellness, I am rediscovering how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. Just think about your life. How do you feel when you have had a poor night’s sleep? When you couldn’t fall asleep because your brain was racing with a billion thoughts all at once? When your spouse was snoring so loud you thought the house was going to fall down? When that afternoon cup of joe turned out to be a bad idea?


How did you feel in the morning? What was your day like? Did you make healthy food choices? Were you patient in a traffic jam? Were you productive at work? Probably not.


Now, think about a time when you had a truly restful, good night’s sleep. How did your day look different?


Despite many recommendations and experts telling you, there is one thing I think people don’t realize, which is how much sleep they should be getting each night. Of course, you have your night owls – “I can function on 4-5 hours of sleep per night.” Sure…you can function, but optimally? Do you find yourself getting tired while the sun is still up? Do you reach for a caffeinated beverage around 2 or 3 in the afternoon to give you a little “pick-me-up”? Do you fall asleep on your couch watching TV well before bedtime? These could be signs that you need more sleep than you thought.


Based on recent studies, at least 1/3 of the general population experience insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep). Many turn to medications to help, but those can lead to other side effects. Medications like Zolpidem (generic Ambien) taken for more than 5 years has been linked to an increased risk for Parkinson’s disease. Temazepam is a benzodiazepine used to help sleep, but it can deplete Melatonin (the hormone that triggers our brain that it’s time to sleep), so it can become a vicious cycle.


According to the National Sleep Foundation adults 18 years of age to 64 years of age need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Many do not get that much sleep and suffer adverse consequences, but more on that in a bit. How about I put up a handy chart showing the recommended sleep amounts?


AGE

RECOMMENDED HOURS OF SLEEP

IDEAL BEDTIME

0-3 months

14 - 19

n/a

4-11 months

12 - 16

6 - 7:30 pm

1-2 YEARS

11 - 14

7 - 7:30 pm

3-5 YEARS

10 - 13

7 - 8 pm

6-12 YEARS

9 - 12

8 - 9:30 pm

13-17 YEARS

8 - 10

9 - 10:30 pm

18 -64 YEARS

7 - 9

8 - 12 am

65+ YEARS

7 - 8

8 - 12 am


So, how many of you can say that you are getting enough sleep according to the recommendations? What are those consequences for poor or little sleep I spoke about a minute ago?


Recent reviews of various studies have found that people who sleep less than 6 hours per night have a 10-fold greater risk of premature death than those who slept 7-9 hours per night. That’s scary. There are other adverse effects from not getting enough sleep (besides premature death). Poor sleep is linked to poor performance in school or at work, mental health problems, anxiety, depression, irritability, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, metabolic disorders, and diabetes.


So, what can you do to get better quality sleep?


Practice good sleep hygiene…what does that look like?


1. Limit screen time – no screen time (TV, phone, video games, computer, etc.) one hour before bedtime.


2. Avoid caffeine 8-10 hours before bedtime. (I can hear you now…but that’s how I get through the day. I must have my [insert expensive coffee place here] to function or I will be dragging. No, you are dragging because you aren’t getting enough sleep at night…and your diet probably isn’t the best, either.)


3. Get sun exposure during the day (without a sunburn, please). Sun helps our bodies make Vitamin D and helps with the production of melatonin (a hormone that triggers our bodies that it is time for sleep).


4. Get some exercise. Moving during the day can lead to better quality sleep at night.


5. Block out light sources in your bedroom. Even the little charging lights or the light from an alarm clock (does anyone still use those besides me?) can disturb your sleep. Use blackout curtains if there are streetlights seeping through the windows.


6. Establish a 30-minute bedtime routine. This routine signals your body that rest is coming and helps you wind down and relax. Take a bath or shower, drink a cup of chamomile tea or cocoa with reishi mushrooms, read a calming book (not a thriller or mystery novel) for 10-15 minutes, journal your to-do list or thoughts, or try meditation or deep-breathing exercises. Do the same routine every night and your body (and more importantly your brain) will realize this routine means it is time to rest.


Whatever your routine, or sleeping habits are, if you find you need some additional support, please contact me at info@dramyknaperek.com for a free connection call. I would love to help you PIVOT to functional health and wellness!

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