The importance of a good night’s sleep
by Maria Fermoile, PT, DPT, OCS
Alliance Rehabilitation, Fresno, CA
In today’s world, there are so many demands on our time, pulling us in different directions. It’s often tempting to stay up late or to get up early just to get things done. So why is this bad for us?
Sleep gives our body the chance to maintain and repair our basic systems. Muscles, hormones, the brain and nervous system, the digestive tract — they all need a chance to recuperate from a hard day’s work. This is why a lack of sleep affects both our mental and physical health. It is associated with increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and system-wide inflammation. Lack of sleep can also affect our immune system, our cognitive abilities (i.e., our mental capacity), and our mood and mental health.
To get maximal restorative sleep, we need to have four to five sleep cycles per night. Each cycle includes a period of deep sleep and rapid eye movement (REM), which can include dreaming. These cycles and patterns of sleep are crucial to a good night’s sleep. Personal sleep needs will vary, though it is suggested that adults get 7 to 8 hours, while young children need 10 hours, teenagers 9 hours, and babies need an incredible 16 hours.
To maximize your sleep tonight, keep these tips in mind:
Decrease your exposure to artificial light. Keep in mind that this does not just include light bulbs — the blue light from alarm clocks and the illumination from computers and cell phones stimulates the brain and can affect our ability to sleep. Do not use these devices within two hours of bed time.
Don’t go to bed too hungry or too full. Some people sleep better after a light dinner, while others need a snack before bedtime.
An old sleep proverb advises, “An hour before midnight is worth two after.” The sooner we go to bed, the sooner we will enter into our progressively deeper cycles of sleep when the body is rejuvenating itself. These cycles occur in the earlier part of night (11 p.m. to 3 a.m.). After 3 a.m. the deep sleep cycles begin to shorten. So the earlier we go to bed, the more opportunity we have for deep sleep throughout the night — and for feeling more refreshed in the morning.
Manage stress throughout the day. The most important factor to getting a good night sleep may lie in managing your stress throughout the day. Practice diaphragmatic breathing to assist with daily stress management (see my article on Breathing — For health and well being at the Hanford Sentinel), or try this short exercise designed to promote relaxation and a good night’s sleep.
||Maria Fermoile, PT, DPT, OCS, is a doctor of physical therapy at Alliance Rehabilitation, a Physiquality network member in Fresno, California. With more than 26 years of experience, Maria has focused her practice and expertise on manual therapy and therapeutic exercise of the spine and extremities. In addition to being an expert clinician, Maria is a guest lecturer for Fresno State’s Physical Therapy and Kinesiology Programs and a clinical educator for physical therapy students.
For further information, look through our selection of articles on health and wellness, in addition to the below links:
Kwan, Nicole. Less sleep tied to brain shrinkage, cognitive decline. Fox News, July 1, 2014.
Fermoile, Maria. The Hanford Sentinel.
Johnson, David. Fractured sleep exacts a heavy toll. Medscape, February 19, 2014.
Doyle, Kathryn. Too little sleep linked to heart disease risk. Reuters, November 30, 2013.
A twist of the wrists for deep relaxation. Sounder Sleep System.
Paddock, Catharine. Sleep could be key to preventing type 2 diabetes. Medical News Today, June 19, 2013.
Brody, Jane E. New York Times.
O’Connor, Anahad. The claim: Lack of sleep increases weight. New York Times, April 27, 2010.
Mann, Denise. Can better sleep mean catching fewer colds? Lack of sleep affects your immune system. WebMD, January 19, 2010.