The Importance of Sleep

Why do we need sleep?

Sleep is important for the recovery of both our minds and our bodies. It is imperative that we sleep so that our brains can remember what we have learned throughout the day, allow us to pay attention and focus, as well as solve problems and think of novel ideas [2]. Our bodies need sleep to help give us more energy and to allow our muscles, bones, and skin to grow, fix injuries, and help us stay healthy and fight illnesses [2].


We all need sleep for healthy mental and physical development [4]. Children need adequate sleep, as sufficient sleep improves quality of life, behaviour, mood, and is even related to better school performance [3]. Children who don’t get a good sleep are less likely to do well in school and more likely to have problems with memory, attention, emotion regulation, and anxiety [4]. For adults, a lack of sleep has been found to be associated with cardiovascular problems, a weakened immune system, higher risk for obesity, and type II diabetes [4]. On a positive note, a good sleep is related to improved concentration, creativity, memory consolidation, coping, and many other aspects of life [4]. Therefore, it is important that we prioritize our sleep to perform optimally in our day-to-day lives!


How much sleep do we need?

The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following guidelines [4]:


Newborns (0-3 months)

​14-17 hours

​Infants (4-11 months)

​12-15 hours

​Toddlers (1-2 years)

11-14 hours

​Preschooler (3-5 years)

10-13 hours

​School-age (6-13 years)

9-11 hours

​Teens (14-17 years)

8-10 hours

Young adults (18-25 years)

7-9 hours

​Adults (26-64 years)

7-9 hours

​Older adults (65+ years)

​7-8 hours

Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene is another term for good sleep habits [1]. Here are some important tips to build good sleep hygiene or better ‘sleep habits’ [1]:

  • Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. This is a great way to ‘train’ your body to sleep well and help you regulate your sleep.

  • Sleep when you feel tired as opposed to spending too much time awake in bed.

  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol at least 4-6 hours before going to bed. Caffeine and nicotine act as stimulants and interfere with sleep and alcohol interrupts the quality of your sleep.

  • Try to only use your bed for sleeping and avoid watching TV, eating, reading, or browsing your phone in bed. This will help your body associate your bed with sleep.

  • Avoid watching the clock while trying to sleep, as frequently checking the time can wake you up and reinforce negative thoughts around sleep.

  • Try to get exercise during the day, if possible.

Create a sleep routine that works for you. Keep in mind that what works for someone may not work for you. Test out some of the previous tips and see which strategies help you get the best sleep possible!


Does Screen Time Affect Sleep?

Yes, studies have shown that electronic devices, such as a cellphone, can interfere with your sleep [4]. Many cellphones and computers also emit blue light, which reduces melatonin production - a sleep hormone that makes you feel tired [4]. This causes you to feel more alert when you should be feeling tired [4]. Children are particularly vulnerable to these effects, as it has been shown that using devices with screens before bed can increase the amount of time it takes them to fall asleep [4]. Children who are exposed to these devices before bed often do not get enough high-quality sleep and are tired the following day [4]. Therefore, it is beneficial to put your cellphones and computers away well before bedtime, as this can help you fall asleep faster and improve the quality of your sleep!


How To Improve Your Sleep Environment


For a Better Night’s Rest:

There are many environmental factors that can also affect your sleep, some of which may seem odd. For example, the colors in your room (such as the colors of your walls and bedding) can affect your sleep [4]. You should try to choose colors that make you feel calm and at ease when you go to bed [4]. Some other things to consider: reduce clutter, make your bedroom feel welcoming, try to make your bedroom as dark as possible at bedtime, have your bedroom at a comfortable temperature, and have a comfortable and well-built mattress [4]. Don’t overwhelm yourself with making numerous changes all at once; try to change one or two things in your bedroom environment and see if it makes a difference for you.


Conclusion

What does all of this mean? Well, sleep is incredibly important and affects many areas of our daily lives. It is necessary that we take the steps to improve our sleep, sleep hygiene, and bedroom environment, as this helps keep us happy and healthy!


Do you have concerns about your child’s sleep? Email info@highpointpsychology.com to talk about your options.

Blog post written by Kassandra Burk and reviewed by Dr. Andrea Stelnicki.

Literature review prepared by Kassandra Burk.

*The information contained in this blog post is based on a narrative review of available literature. Some studies may have been unintentionally omitted. You are advised to speak with a healthcare professional to determine if the information is appropriate to your specific circumstances.*

References:

[1] Center for Clinical Intervention. (2021). Sleep Hygiene. Retrieved from https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/

[2] Sleep for Kids. Retrieved from http://www.sleepforkids.org/html/why.html

[3] Better Nights Better Days. (2021). About The Program. Retrieved from https://betternightsbetterdays.ca/about-program

[4] The National Sleep Foundation. (2022).


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