Remember nap time? What about bedtime? All the childhood fussing and fighting and bargaining for a few more wakeful moments. Now, “In America, 70% of adults report that they obtain insufficient sleep at least one night a month, and 11% report insufficient sleep every night.” The American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) says, “The odds of being sleep deprived (less than 6 hours a night for adults) has increased significantly over the past 30 years as the lines between work and home have become blurred and digital technology has firmly become part of our lifestyles.” Also, a study in 2016 found that poor sleep quality decreased positive work performance and increased healthcare costs. Sleep is important! It’s not just important for our overall rest and wellness, it’s also vital for the functions of our brain. So here are three ways to determine your sleep needs and take action to improve them:
1. Figure Out How Much Sleep You Need
We’ve all heard that 8 hours of sleep is recommended for adults. However, did you know that this is just an estimation, not a hard and fast rule? Everyone requires rest in different amounts depending on the specific functions of their body. An article published in 2020 says, “The average healthy adult needs 6.5 to 8 hours of sleep each night.” The same article then goes on to say that the sleep we need is often in response to our age, health, mental state, and even our genetics! Therefore, your sleep needs are incredibly personal and you need to take the time to determine what they are for you. If you’re struggling to stay awake at work, you might immediately attribute the problem to needing more sleep. However, this may not be the case! A professional health coach can help you determine exactly what is affecting your sleep, starting with calculating your sleep. You might even choose to keep track of your calculations using a sleep journal. Calculating your sleep is essentially going back to bedtimes. Healthline created a basic “bedtime” sleep schedule based on a goal of either 7.5 hours of sleep or 9 hours of sleep here. Follow the guidelines for a week and journal your progress. Then follow it for another week and see if anything has changed in your restfulness, mood, work performance, etc. A health coach can help you determine how much sleep is necessary for you from the data collected. Knowing how much sleep you need is critical to your mental and physical development at every stage in your life. You may be tempted to rebel against bedtimes, just like you did as a child, but remember that good sleep is vital for your health.
2. Determine If Your Sleep Quality is Optimal
If you feel you’re sleeping long enough, but you’re not rested when you wake, you might have poor sleep quality. The Sleep Foundation defines good sleep quality as:
“You fall asleep soon after getting into bed, within 30 minutes or less.
You typically sleep straight through the night, waking up no more than once per night.
You’re able to sleep the recommended amount of hours for your age group.
You fall back asleep within 20 minutes if you do wake up.
You feel rested, restored, and energized upon waking up in the morning.”
If this doesn’t describe your sleep, your sleep quality might be compromised. Many physical and mental factors could be affecting your sleep quality. For example, your mattress could be of low quality, causing comfort issues while sleeping. Chronic illnesses, sleep apnea, or too many stimulants before bed could also be physical factors in poor sleep quality. Mentally, anxiety and stress are common causes of poor sleep quality. Working with medical professionals, therapists, and professional coaches are all ways to optimize your sleep quality.
3. Establish a Healthy Circadian Rhythm
The National Institute of General Medical Sciences says, “Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. These natural processes respond primarily to light and dark and affect most living things, including animals, plants, and microbes.” Therefore, our body is naturally designed to put itself to sleep in response to the natural day and night patterns of the Earth. Technology messes with those patterns and so does staying up late at night. Our body’s circadian rhythm doesn’t just help regulate sleep, it also helps to regulate other physiological functions like hunger, digestion, and even body temperature. It is vital to our health to establish a healthy circadian rhythm by waking up and going to sleep at the same time every day, limiting exposure to bright light to primarily daytime, regulating meal times, and limiting caffeine in the body (to name a few methods). A professional health coach can help to keep track of these adjustments and how they’re helping you towards your goals of better sleep.
These are just three ways to determine your sleep needs, but there are many complex issues surrounding the necessity for a good night’s sleep. Lack of good sleep can affect your professional and personal life, which is why a professional coach is vital to help you determine a plan of action and see it through.