Every Friday before the March equinox, World Sleep Day is commemorated to raise awareness of the importance of having a restful sleep and that it generates well-being at all levels, both physical and emotional. It is also used to warn about the short and long-term consequences that lack of care can generate in the body. The anniversary was promoted through the World Association of Sleep Medicine (WASM: World Association of Sleep Medicine) and other organizations related to sleep.
This year’s motto is “Quality sleep, healthy mind, happy world”. And it is not minor, because sleeping properly brings us many health benefits.
Poor quality sleep can cause a series of problems and disorders in the body. Dr. Merrill Mitler, a sleep expert and neuroscientist at the NIH (National Institutes of Health, USA), explains that “Sleep loss impairs higher levels of reasoning, problem solving, and attention to detail.”
People who are tired tend to be less productive at work. They are more likely to have traffic accidents. Sleep deprivation also influences mood, which can affect the way one interacts with others. Sleep deficit, over time, can even increase the risk of depression.
In addition, all tissues of the body are affected for the worse. “It affects growth and stress hormones, our immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure and cardiovascular health,” says Dr. Michael Twery of the same institute.
These disorders are closely linked, then, to heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and kidney disease.
Twery points out that although personal needs vary, on average, an adult needs between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per night. Babies usually sleep about 16 hours a day. Young children need about 10 hours of sleep, while teenagers need at least 9 hours. To get the most out of sleep’s restorative benefits, it’s important to get a full night of quality sleep, says Twery.
To achieve this, changes in daily habits can be established:
- • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine or some medications that can keep you active
- • Avoid distractions such as electronic devices (especially light from televisions, cell phones, tablets, and e-readers)
- • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
- • Avoid nicotine
- • Exercise regularly, but not too late
- • Avoid alcoholic beverages before bedtime
- • Avoid heavy meals and drinks at night
- • Do not take naps after 3 in the afternoon
- • Relax before bedtime, for example by taking a bath, reading or listening to soft music
- • Keep your bedroom cool
- • Get enough sun during the day
- • Do not lie in bed awake. If you can’t sleep for 20 minutes, get up and do something relaxing