Sleep is a very important part of our health, but we can tend to overlook it. When we sleep, our body isn’t just resting, it’s doing work to keep us mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy. 

Not getting enough sleep can increase our risk of chronic disease, depression, poor concentration, and even obesity. In children and teens, a lack of sleep can hurt physical and mental growth. 

There are a few different stages of sleep, and different things happen during each stage. During some stages, we store memories from the day. During other stages, our muscles relax so we feel rested and energetic the next day. In order for all these stages to happen, we need enough hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Cutting our sleep by even one hour a night–or getting way too much sleep–can hurt our ability to focus, learn, remember, and react. 

  • Toddlers need 10-14 total hours of sleep each day (including naps)
  • Kids 6-12 need 9-12 hours of sleep each night
  • Teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep each night
  • Adults of all ages need 7-8 hours of sleep each night

To make sure you are getting the right amount of sleep, and to make sure you are sleeping well during the night, follow these suggestions:

  1. Decide on a bedtime and stick with it, and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. It will be much easier to keep a good sleep schedule if you are keeping the same sleep schedule every day.
  1. Have a bedtime routine that tells your body it’s time to sleep. This might be a warm shower, brushing your teeth, or reading a chapter of a book. 
  2. Avoid electronics before bed. The light from our screens tells our bodies we should be awake, even when we’re tired.
  1. Eat at least a couple hours before bedtime. Large meals, alcohol, and caffeine right before bed can make it harder for us to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  1. Move around and be active during the day. Getting exercise during the day can be extra helpful in making sure our bodies are ready to rest at night.
  1. Keep your room dark and cool. If the room is too warm, or if there is too much light, you are more likely to wake up during the night. 

A few signs that you aren’t getting enough sleep include drowsiness, inability to focus, bad memory, and craving more unhealthy foods than usual. Kids who aren’t sleeping well might not seem tired during the day. In fact they might have more energy than usual but be unable to focus in school or on other activities. If you or your child are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, talk with your doctor. 

Make getting enough sleep a goal for this year and see what a difference it can make!

Source: NHLBI

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