By Pia Todras, PsyD, JCFS Psychological Services
Because of the high occurrence of sleep-deprivation in America, there is an entire week dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of sleep (National Sleep Awareness Week, March 5-11, 2012).
Getting enough sleep is something I consistently struggle with. Although I try to get 8 hours most nights, often times this is difficult, and I’m not alone in this struggle.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), in 2008, approximately 28% of surveyed adults in the United States reported frequent insufficient sleep.
- The American Psychological Association(APA) cited that 60 percent of adults report having sleep problems a few nights or more during a week.
When I don’t get enough sleep I am irritable, feel anxious, have difficulty concentrating, and feel physically ill, which can then have a negative impact on my work and on my ability to interact with others. Because a good portion of my work involves interacting with others, it is essential for me to get a good night’s sleep (at least 8 hours in my case). Dr. Rachel Riley, a clinical psychologist at JCFS, stated “Individuals consolidate learning in REM sleep; therefore, their learning potential is decreased when they do not get enough sleep.” Sleep deprivation is associated with many other negative effects also.
Individuals who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to have chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, or obesity (CDC, 2011).
- Sleep deficiency has been associated with fair/poor general health, frequent mental and physical distress, depressive symptoms, anxiety, and pain (CDC, 2011).
- Lack of sleep has been associated with increased food consumption and appetite, and may therefore affect individual’s risk of becoming overweight (National Sleep Foundation, 2012).
- In children, inadequate sleep raises the risk for increased stress, decreased memory and learning, compromised immune system, insulin resistance that leads to obesity, and a higher incidence of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (Deerwester, 2011).
- One study found that toddlers who missed one daily nap demonstrated more anxiety, less joy and interest, and a poorer understanding of how to solve problems (National Sleep Foundation, 2012).
In my work providing assessment and therapy services to children, adolescents, and families at JCFS, I have often found that in addition to not getting enough sleep, individuals are also often unaware of the recommended amount of sleep for themselves and/or their child.
Sleep tips for children
- Emphasize need for regular and consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine.
- Make child's bedroom conducive to sleep – dark, cool and quiet.
- Child should sleep in the same sleeping environment every night.
- Keep TV and computers out of the bedroom.
- Avoid caffeine.
- For toddlers, encourage use of a security object such as a blanket or stuffed animal.
Teach school-aged children about healthy sleep habits.
Sleep tips for adults
- Establish consistent sleep and wake schedules, even on weekends.
- Create a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath or listening to soothing music – begin an hour or more before the time you expect to fall asleep.
- Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
- Avoid watching TV, using a computer or reading in bed.
- Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime.
- Exercise regularly during the day or at least a few hours before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol products close to bedtime and give up smoking.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy(CBT), which is available at JCFS, has been shown to be an effective treatment to promote healthy sleep habits. In addition, sleep deprivation can be a symptom of various mental health disorders, and in these cases, proper diagnosis and treatment of the disorder can lead to improved sleep.
Photo credit: By Joi on Flickr