Sleep is a vital indicator of overall health and well-being. We spend up to one-third of our lives asleep, and the overall state of our “sleep health” remains an essential question throughout our lifespan.
Most of us know that getting a good night’s sleep is important, but too few of us actually make those eight or so hours between the sheets a priority. For many of us with sleep debt, we’ve forgotten what “being really, truly rested” feels like.
Sleep Time Recommendations: What’s Changed?
The amount of sleep you need depends on various factors — especially your age. While sleep needs vary significantly among individuals, consider these general guidelines for different age groups:
- Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
- Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
- Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
- Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
- School-age children (6-13)
- Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
- Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours (new age category)
- Adults (26-64):7-9 hours
- Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours (new age category)
The quality of your sleep can also impact how much you need.
If your sleep quality is poor, you may find that you still feel tired after getting what should be considered enough.
Conversely, if you are getting good quality sleep, you may be able to manage better with a little less.
Many studies have found that short sleep duration, as well as poor sleep quality, are responsible for many negative sleep-related effects.
Therefore, it’s not only important to focus on sleeping long enough, but also on sleeping well enough.
Additionally, many common sleep disorders can have negative effects on your sleep quality, such as sleep apneaTrusted Source. If you regularly feel like you aren’t sleeping well or are extremely tired and don’t know why it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor.
Improve Your Sleeping Today: Make Sleep a Priority
To begin a new path towards healthier sleep and a healthier lifestyle, begin by assessing your own individual needs and habits. See how you respond to different amounts of sleeping.
Pay careful attention to your mood, energy, and health after a poor night’s sleeping versus a good one. Ask yourself, “How often do I get a good night’s sleep?” Like a good diet and exercise, sleeping is a critical component of overall health.
Tips for Better Sleeping
Since quality is important, try to ensure you’re sleeping well all night.
- Follow a regular schedule: Going to bed at the same time each night helps regulate your inner clock. Following an irregular sleeping schedule has been linked to poor sleeping quality and duration.
- Create a calming bedtime routine: Adopting a relaxing routine before bed can help you get in the mood to sleep. For example, listening to calming music has been shown to help improve sleeping quality in certain groups.
- Create a comfortable environment: Sleeping in a quiet, dark room at a comfortable temperature can help you sleeping better. Being too active before bed, too warm, or in a noisy environment is linked to poor sleeping.
- Minimize caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine: Studies have linked caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine use to poorer sleeping quality. Try to avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening.
- Reduce your use of electronics: The excessive use of cell phones and electronics has been associated with poor sleeping quality. Even exposure to bright room lights before bed may negatively affect your sleeping
- Be more active: Studies have shown that being inactive is associated with poorer sleeping, and conversely, getting exercise during the day may help you sleeping better at night.
- Practice meditation: Meditation and relaxation training may help improve sleeping quality and brain function, although research isn’t clear.
Food and Drink That Promote a Good Night’s Sleep
A Handful of Nuts
Nuts are a good source of heart-healthy fats. And almonds and walnuts, specifically, contain melatonin, a hormone that helps to regulate your sleeping/wake cycle. Eating them can increase your blood levels of the hormone, helping you sleep more soundly.
Foods that are high in lean protein, like cottage cheese, also pack the amino acid tryptophan, which may increase serotonin levels. Serotonin is a brain chemical and low levels of it can contribute to insomnia. To sweeten it up, top the cottage cheese with raspberries, which are rich sources of melatonin.
A Cup of Bedtime Tea
A nightly cup of tea (sans caffeine, of course) can be a perfect relaxing ritual. Chamomile, ginger, and peppermint are calming choices for bedtime.
Scientifically, there may be some link between the tryptophan and melatonin content of milk and improved sleeping. But perhaps more powerful is the psychological link between warm milk and bedtime as a child. Just like hot tea, a warm drink of milk can provide the perfect soothing backdrop for a relaxing bedtime routine.