It is likely that in these last few months, there have been times where sleep is anything but restful as our minds have raced over a myriad of topics.
For the past six months, there have been various things that have consumed our lives. There was a spotlight put on social issues dealing with equality between races, riots and protests, natural disasters, and of course the global COVID-19 pandemic and all the things that continue to go with that. Let’s also not forget in 2020 the office of president will be decided in November.
A lot has happened and we still have the final three months of the year to go.
For nearly six months, the lives of children also have been disrupted. Students have been away from school, away from routine and everyone was away from the norm.
It is likely not an exaggeration that at some point during the spring and summer everyone has struggled at times and it may have impacted sleep patterns. We’ve all probably heard we should get seven or eight hours of sleep to be ready for the next day. Ideally, that sleep is supposed to be a time when we recharge our mind, body, and soul, but that’s not always the case.
Recently, students returned to school or started classes online.
In a time when the routine was thrown out the window, some normalcy has returned. While that likely was welcomed, the past few weeks also were hard for some. It is also possible that as restrictions have loosened, people returned to work after a hiatus or found a job.
After not having to wake up and go to work or school, a routine has returned.
Sleep deprivation is defined as not obtaining adequate total sleep, according to the American Sleep Association. When someone is in a chronic sleep-restricted state, they’ll notice excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, clumsiness, and weight gain or weight loss, according to the ASA. Also, being sleep-deprived affects both the brain and cognitive function.
With the beginning of the new school year, parents will want to make sure their child is getting enough sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, children ages 6 to 13 should get between 9 and 11 hours of sleep, while kids 14-17 need between 8-10 hours of sleep. In contrast, adults 18-65 should get 7-9 hours of sleep, while those over 65 should get 7-8 hours of sleep.
Dr. Jim Milliken and physician assistant Kristin Watson both work at the Munson Healthcare Cadillac Hospital Sleep Disorders Center. While they don’t see children in their clinic they said keeping a handle on what they call stimulus control and sleep hygiene are what parents should be concerned with. The same is true for adults.
When it comes to stimulus control that means not drinking caffeinated beverages after noon or earlier depending on a person’s reaction to it, not exercising 4-6 hours before bedtime, and keeping off devices or electronics at least an hour before bed. Alternate suggestions include reading a boring book, meditation, or sleep hypnosis, which is a technique that involves guided thinking to lead a person into a state of relaxation.
Watson also suggested staying off social media an hour before bed as it can help to get a person fired up or their emotions going.
All of that can help create good sleep hygiene.
If you are not familiar with sleep hygiene it means having both a bedroom environment and daily routines that promote consistent, uninterrupted sleep. Keeping a stable sleep schedule, making your bedroom comfortable and free of disruptions, following a relaxing pre-bed routine, and building healthy habits during the day can all contribute to good sleep hygiene.
“It is different from person to person. Usually, when making changes, I recommend incremental changes,‘ Milliken said. “If you have been going to bed at 1 a.m., work your way back in 15 minutes increments. You keep moving that time back until you are asleep 90% of the time, which is based on a set wake time.‘
Watson said getting to good sleep hygiene should also include keeping pets out of the bedroom. If a spouse for adults or siblings for children and teens who share a bedroom is snoring, Watson suggested a white noise machine to help cover up the noise. She also said it should be dark, comfortable, and cool. Keeping a clock in the bedroom also is a no-no.
Finally, if a person is awake and can’t fall asleep, Watson said after 15 minutes of laying there they should get up, go to a comfortable place and use relaxation techniques. After sitting there and when you begin to feel sleepy go back to bed.
While many factors go into it, Milliken said all people including children need to get on a regular sleep/wake schedule. That means getting up at the same time every day, avoiding stimulants and electronics if you can. He also said while it may sound like a good idea because you are tired, avoid napping during the day.
“You only need so much sleep in a 24-hour cycle. If people don’t get enough sleep they take naps, but you don’t want to impede on the sleep onset by taking a nap at 4 p.m. or 5 p.m.,‘ he said.