February 23, 2024

What is your typical nightly sleep duration? Medical recommendations advise healthy adults to aim for a minimum of seven hours’ rest.

According to Eric Zhou of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, these are not strict rules but instead general recommendations. He says that while some individuals may require less than seven hours, others may need more sleep.

Is your required sleep time greater or lesser?

We understand that you may know individuals who claim they only require five hours of sleep nightly, meanwhile you struggle with being alert unless obtaining eight to nine hours. The primary cause for variances among people is the erroneous perception many have regarding sleep.

Zhou suggests that we should take into account our sleep quality rather than solely emphasizing on the duration of our nightly slumber.

Sleep quality refers to the level of your nighttime rest. Did you experience uninterrupted sleep, or did you have instances where you awakened? If yes, how long did it take for slumber to return? How was your general state upon waking up in the morning?

Zhou advises that if you feel refreshed upon waking with enough energy to last throughout the day, then don’t stress over the specific number of hours slept.

What is the impact of sleep quality on your health?

Our overall health depends on the quality of our sleep. Studies have demonstrated that individuals experiencing poor sleep are at an elevated risk for developing ailments such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and mental conditions like anxiety and depression.

That’s not the only concern. Zhou points out that inadequate sleep can also lead to daytime fatigue and hinder enjoyment of life.

As people age, it is natural for their sleeping habits to undergo changes. Zhou explains that individuals in their 50s and 60s may not have the same sleep patterns as they did during their younger years.

Age-related alterations are responsible for several of these modifications. Specifically, as we grow older, our circadian rhythm – a mechanism that controls various bodily functions such as sleep-wake patterns- may gradually become disturbed resulting in reduced slow-wave restorative sleep duration per night.

Zhou explains that the decline in melatonin production, which is responsible for regulating sleep, occurs gradually as we age. Consequently, it is common to experience earlier awakening or frequent awakenings throughout the night during our later years.

What methods are available for monitoring the quality of sleep?

Keeping a sleep diary can be one method to comprehending the factors that may influence your quality of sleep. This involves monitoring and documenting your sleeping patterns over time.

Keep a daily log of the time you went to bed, duration it took for sleep onset, frequency and length of nighttime awakenings, along with your wake-up timing. Additionally note down your feelings upon awakening as well as at the end of each day.

Zhou suggests reviewing the information after a week or two to identify any patterns that may be affecting your sleep quality, and making adjustments accordingly.

Zhou advises that if you experience difficulty in falling asleep, try going to bed half an hour later than your usual bedtime but keep the same wake-up time. Staying in bed for longer periods of time to catch up on sleep is a common mistake made by people with sleeping problems; however, this practice only hinders their natural sleep cycle and reduces the quality of their rest according to Zhou.

Three essential methods to enhance the quality of your sleep.

There are additional strategies that can aid in maintaining high-quality sleep, such as:

Keeping a regular wake-up schedule, particularly during weekends.

Daytime naps should be limited to 20-30 minutes and taken at least six hours prior to the intended bedtime.

Engaging in physical activity.

Consistency plays a significant role in ensuring good sleep quality. Zhou explains that individuals with excellent sleep tend to have a consistent timeframe for sleeping, whereby their slumber occurs during the same hours every night. Additionally, proficient snoozers are more likely to maintain steady durations of uninterrupted nighttime rest.

Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for overall well-being.

Zhou suggests that expecting flawless sleep every night is impractical. She believes that experiencing difficulty sleeping for a night or two in a week could be due to life’s unpredictable nature, such as consuming heavy meals, excessive alcohol intake while watching sports games, and having stressful altercations with others. Zhou recommends assessing the quality of sleep on a weekly basis rather than comparing it day-to-day so that overall health can be better monitored.

If despite practicing proper sleep hygiene, you don’t feel refreshed upon waking up, it’s advisable to consult with your doctor. They can assist in ruling out potential sleeping disorders like sleep apnea and other health concerns such as high blood pressure or acid reflux that could obstruct restful slumber. In addition to these factors, several others may impact the quality of one’s nightly repose: using various medications simultaneously, experiencing depression or anxiety symptoms which cause a sense of loneliness along with shifts in environmental elements such as temperature fluctuations combined exposure to light and noise disturbances are among them possibly impacting peaceful sleep patterns.

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