Healthy Sleep habits

Healthy Sleep habits

15 March 2024 Health

Nothing is better than a full night of sleep. This is one of the few things in life not dependent on where you live in the world – it’s a a basic need for all of us.

Sleep is a biological process that supports many of the vital functions of our body and mind. It is one of the most important aspects of our lives, one to which we devote a good part of our time, yet in many ways a great unknown.  What we do know is that sleep, or more importantly, good rest, is crucial to our daily lives and that chronic sleep deprivation can have devastating effects on our physical and mental health.

What facets of our life improve when we sleep?

Scientific studies have shown that during sleep there are improvements in many areas of our organism that positively influence our well-being and quality of life:

  • Rest and recovery: during sleep, the body can rest and recover from daily physical and mental activities. During this time, repair and regeneration processes take place at the cellular and tissue level.
  • Memory consolidation: Sleep plays an important role in memory consolidation and the ability to learn. During certain stages of sleep, such as REM sleep, neural connections are strengthened, and the experiences of the day are processed.
  • Cognitive function: Adequate sleep is crucial for maintaining optimal cognitive function, including attention, concentration, reasoning, and decision-making.
  • Mood regulation: Adequate sleep helps regulate mood and maintain optimal mental health. Lack of sleep can contribute to problems such as anxiety and depression.
  • Immune system repair: During sleep, the immune system is strengthened, and processes take place that help fight infection and disease. A chronic lack of sleep can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of disease.
  • Regulation of metabolism and appetite: Sleep plays an important role in regulating metabolism and appetite. Lack of sleep can negatively affect the hormones that regulate hunger and satiety, which can contribute to weight gain and metabolic problems.
sleeping habits

What are healthy sleep habits by age?

In children, good sleep habits are associated with better overall health including improved attention, behaviour, learning, memory, ability to control emotions, quality of life and physical and mental health.

In adults, poor sleep habits are linked to poor health, including a predisposition to weight gain or diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke and depression.

Sleep needs may vary from person to person, depending on many factors; broadly speaking and depending on age, the following would be healthy sleep habits:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): newborns sleep between 14 and 17 hours per day, but in short intervals of 2-4 hours. The need to feed and change nappies can interrupt their sleep, so attention should be paid, and these needs should be met to interfere as little as possible with their quality of sleep.
  • Babies (4-11 months): Most babies sleep 12-15 hours per day, including some naps. Establishing a sleep routine can help build good sleep habits.
  • Young children (1-2 years): need 11-14 hours of sleep per day, usually with a nap during the day. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule and a relaxing bedtime routine can help establish good sleep habits.
  • School-age children: should get 10-13 hours of sleep per day, including an optional nap. It is advisable to maintain a quiet and comfortable sleep environment. Set limits on screen time before bedtime and encourage relaxing activities to promote good sleep habits.
  • Adolescents (13-18 years): Ideally, they need 8-10 hours of sleep per night. The amount of sleep can be affected by after-school activities, schoolwork and social interactions. It is important to establish a consistent sleep routine even on weekends to maintain a healthy sleep habit.
  • Adults: Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. It is advisable to avoid caffeine and stimulants, strenuous exercise and use of electronic screens before bedtime; maintain a regular sleep schedule and create an optimal sleep environment to maintain a healthy sleep habit.
  • Older adults (65+ years): may need slightly less sleep, around 7-8 hours per night, but the quality of sleep may be affected. Older people tend to be lighter sleepers, take longer to fall asleep and sleep for shorter periods of time. Maintaining a regular sleep routine, exercising regularly and avoiding long naps during the day can help improve the quality of night-time sleep.

What are the general recommendations for a good sleep habit?

Adopting healthy sleep habits is essential to ensure adequate rest and promote overall health. Some habits that can be incorporated to improve the quality of sleep are:

  • Establishing a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, even on weekends, helps regulate the biological clock and promotes more consistent sleep.
  • Create an environment conducive to sleep: the bedroom should be quiet, dark and cool. Use blackout curtains, earplugs or a white noise machine to block out noise or light.
  • Limit exposure to screens before bedtime: the blue light emitted by electronic devices can interfere with the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.  It is advisable to avoid using electronic devices at least one hour before bedtime.
  • Practice relaxation for a while before bedtime to relax and clear your mind. You can practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga or reading a book.
  • Limit your intake of caffeine, stimulants and alcohol several hours before bedtime, as they can interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
  • Avoid prolonged naps during the day, not exceeding 20-30 minutes, and try not to sleep for prolonged periods during daylight hours, as this can affect night-time sleep.
  • Maintaining a regular exercise routine, preferably outdoors, has been shown to improve sleep quality, but intense exercise just before bedtime should be avoided as it can have a stimulating effect.
  • Avoid heavy meals before bedtime which can cause digestive discomfort and make it difficult to fall asleep. Try to eat dinner at least two hours before bedtime and choose light, easily digestible foods.
  • Limiting fluid intake before bedtime helps to avoid interruptions during the night to go to the toilet.
  • Do not stay awake in bed. If you cannot fall asleep after 20 minutes, it is best to get up and do a relaxing activity until you feel sleepy again.
  • During pregnancy, breastfeeding or menopause, the rhythm and quality of sleep may be affected by postural and/or hormonal changes, so sleep hygiene measures are particularly necessary during these periods of a woman’s life.

If you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep on a continuous basis, you should seek medical assistance, as this can have consequences on the long run. The doctors at Teladoc Health can support you with this. If you feel you would like to speak to a medical professional about your sleep, possibly in combination with other factors like menopause or becoming a parent, please check the Ecare portal and you can immediately request an call back or plan a video call in the language you prefer. Don´t hesitate to reach out!

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