I love to sleep, and I’m sure you do too. Lying in bed after a long day is a rewarding and comforting feeling that I cherish. It’s no secret that our bodies need sleep to survive. However, sometimes falling asleep is easier said than done. Understanding how sleep works will help you get the right amount of rest each night.

There are two different types of sleep: non-rapid eye movement, known as NREM sleep, and rapid eye movement, known as REM sleep. NREM sleep is made up of four different stages, ranging from light to deep sleep. REM sleep is more of an active state of sleep when dreaming occurs. A night’s sleep can switch from NREM sleep to REM sleep every ninety minutes or so.

It’s important to recognize that our need for sleep changes with age. Children and teenagers need more sleep than adults, and older adults need about seven to nine hours a night. Unfortunately, we usually get less sleep than we need.

Lack of sleep plays a part in many areas of wellness:

Learning and Memory

When you don’t get enough sleep, your brain loses the ability to remember new information. Studies have shown that people who slept after learning a task were able to perform that task better. Sleep helps your body with consolidation, which is the process of new information being committed to memory.  If you get the right amount of sleep each night, you’ll be better equipped to learn new things and remember them!

Metabolism and Weight

Lack of sleep can result in a slow metabolism, which means you may fall victim to weight gain. Sleep helps our body to process and store carbohydrates; when you’re not sleeping enough, your body is not able to do so. Not getting the right amount of sleep at night is a silly reason for weight gain. Allow your body to process the foods you eat by getting a good night’s rest.

Moods and Emotions

It’s no secret that we all get a little crabby when we’re tired. If you don’t get enough sleep, you can become irritable, impatient, or moody. The right amount of sleep will allow you to feel refreshed and enjoy the next day.

Illness and Disease

Sleep is a great treatment for various ailments. Sleep deprivation alters the immune function, making it harder for your body to fight off infections.

Tip to Get the Right Amount of Sleep

  • Follow a schedule. Go to sleep and wake up around the same time every day. Your body will get used to how much sleep it needs to get, and eventually, it will feel natural.
  • Try not to nap during the day. Napping takes your body off schedule.
  • Exercise during the day; it allows you a deeper sense of sleep.
  • Don’t drink caffeine late in the day; it keeps you up for longer than you want to be.
  • Develop a bedtime routine. Doing the same things each night helps your body know that it’s time to go to sleep.

Tips to Fall Asleep

  • Take a bath before bed. It calms your body down.
  • Sleep in a cool room. Most people are able to fall asleep easier when they are not hot or sweating.
  • Don’t eat right before bed.
  • Monitor your light.
  • Read a book – but save those suspenseful page turners for another time!

Sources:
http://www.helpguide.org/life/sleep_aging.htm

Melanie Marzillo
Research & Community Education
Chicago Skilled Nursing
Chicago Senior Living