May 4, 2020 — The Importance of a Good Night's Sleep

Posted by West Linn-Wilsonville on 4/30/2020 4:00:00 PM

We spend approximately one-third of our lives sleeping, yet sleep often seems to fall to the bottom of our priority list even during the best of times.  Our current situation of physical distancing has brought about stresses and anxieties that didn’t exist just a few months ago.  Unfortunately, these new concerns can have negative impacts on our sleep at a time when we need it the most.  Getting enough sleep allows our body to fight inflammation and infection, increases brain function, and improves mood and mental health.  Who couldn’t benefit from these positives, especially right now? 

So, how much sleep is enough?  While we are all individuals, experts with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine generally recommend the following:

Preschool (3-5 years):            10-13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)

School Age (6-12 years):        9-12 hours per 24 hours

Teen (13-18 years):                8-10 hours per 24 hours

Adult (18-60 years):                7 or more hours per night

These numbers may seem like lofty goals with the stresses of daily life.  What can we do to help ensure that we are getting enough sleep?

Just as we have physical hygiene measures such as bathing, brushing teeth, and washing hands to help keep us healthy, there is also something called “sleep hygiene.”  Sleep hygiene consists of helpful practices and habits we can adopt to encourage a better night’s sleep.  They include the following:

  • Create a sleep schedule. When do you need to go to bed and get up?  Create a plan and stick to it.
  • Make sure your sleep environment is optimal. Use comfortable bedding, make sure your room is at a comfortable temperature for sleep, and get rid of distractions. 
  • Limit screen time before bed. Screens emit blue light, which inhibits the body’s production of the melatonin--a natural sleep inducer.  Try to turn off screens at least one hour before bed.
  • Limit napping during the day. A nap of 30 minutes or less is best.  However, if you are having issues with sleep, skip the naps altogether.
  • Increase exposure to natural light. Daily exposure to natural light is important for regulating our sleep.  Get outside at least once a day while observing appropriate physical distancing guidelines.  While inside, open up the blinds/curtains to let in as much natural light as possible. 
  • Stay active! Even as little as 10 minutes of daily aerobic exercise can help improve sleep.   

In addition, during this time of COVID-19, there are specific things that we can do to assist with getting a good night’s sleep which focus on decreasing stress and anxiety:

  • Create a daily schedule. Get up and get dressed even if not leaving the house.  Schedule time for work, eating, exercise, and play.
  • Stay socially connected. Finding appropriate ways to stay socially connected is so important for lifting our spirits and keeping our moods positive!
  • Develop a toolkit for relaxation. Each person has their own ways to relax--maybe calming music, meditation, reading, writing, yoga, a special hobby, etc.  Take time to relax every day. 
  • Limit news media intake. News about coronavirus is anxiety-producing on the best of days.  Try limiting yourself to one or two sites or one news show per day for a set period of time--and not right before bed. 

If this seems overwhelming, don’t stress!  Just try one of the recommendations above and see what benefits you notice.  In a time when we may be feeling a loss of control in certain areas, this is one part of ourselves and our self-care that we can choose to improve.  Your body and mind will thank you for it!