I recently read a lot of articles about how certain things can disrupt my sleep quality. For example, there was this study that I read in UK’s The Daily Mail that suggests that two glasses of wine can reduce my sleep quality by 40%.
The study that you are talking about was carried out in Finland on over 4,000 men and women. The study participants all wore heart rate monitors when they slept, and the quality of their sleep was recorded during the first three hours.
It was found that just two drinks in women and three in men reduced quality of sleep by as much as 39.2%. The reason is hypothesised to be that alcohol causes people to spend more time in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep in which dreams occur, and less time in the deep, restful sleep without dreams.
Wait. What is good quality sleep in the first place?
These are the indicators of good quality sleep as released by the US National Sleep Foundation (NSF):
• More sleep time on the bed (at least 85% of the total time).
• Falling asleep in 30 minutes or less.
• Waking up no more than once per night.
• Being awake for 20 minutes or less after initially falling asleep.
Apparently, the NSF found that 27% of all people are taking longer than average (meaning 30 minutes) to fall asleep.
So, if you ever envied your husband for falling asleep immediately, and spent your time tossing and turning with thoughts about the family tumbling in your head, know that you are not alone.
Do sleep patterns vary as we age?
Definitely. Let’s examine a newborn baby’s sleep patterns. A newborn is considered to be aged up to three months. A newborn baby should be spending 15 to 18 hours asleep. Then you get to the infant stage (four to 11 months). He or she should fall asleep in less than 30 minutes when you put him or her into bed, and should spend 12 to 15 hours sleeping.
Then you get to the toddler stage (one to two years). The toddler should also fall asleep in less than 30 minutes after you put him in bed, whether or not you are telling a bedtime story. He should spend 12 hours sleeping. That’s why it’s important that you don’t make toddlers follow your sleep times.
When we get to preschool children (three to five years), they need 10 to 13 hours of sleep. Children aged six to 13 years need nine to 11 hours, and teenagers need eight to 10 hours. You can deviate from this by one or two hours less or more, but too much deviation is generally not recommended.
What about us adults?
Adults from age 18 to 65 need seven to nine hours a night. If you are above age 65, you need seven to eight hours. So those myths about old people only needing to sleep five or six hours a night are not to be believed.
Why is having good sleep so important?
Sleep is a vital indicator of our overall health and wellbeing. Don’t forget that we spend one-third of our lives sleeping. Unfortunately, our world today is so filled with electronic equipment, artificial light and so much entertainment at night that we don’t make sleep a priority anymore, or we think we can do with less.
Worse yet, during our sleep, we have the Internet on and our phones on, and we sometimes drink coffee in the evenings. All these interfere with our sleep patterns. As an adult, you are recommended to get between seven and nine hours of sleep. The question is then seven or nine?
Only you can make that assessment. Do you feel happy, well-rested and productive on seven hours of sleep? Or do you need nine? If you feel dopey and you’re nodding off during the afternoon on seven hours of sleep, then your body definitely needs more sleep.
How do I improve my sleep quality?
You have to make sleep a non-negotiable priority. Yes, sometimes it is impossible when you have a baby or toddler to take care of, but those babies grow up and you can return to your normal patterns of sleep, especially when you insist that they sleep their required duration!
Do follow these cardinal sleep tips:
• Stick to a proper sleep schedule, even on weekends.
• Practise a relaxing bedtime ritual, such as reading or meditation.
• Do daily exercise, but not within three to four hours before bedtime.
• Make sure your bedroom has the right temperature. Some people advocate 18°C as the right temperature for your body to cool down.
• Turn off your phone and Internet. Keep your room dark.
• Don’t drink alcohol or coffee at night. Some people who have trouble sleeping don’t even drink alcohol or coffee at all.