At a time when studies indicate people are getting increasingly less sleep, one thing remains clear, says Seattle physical therapist Erik Norwood: we need to take sleep much more seriously as it is critical to both health and healing.
“Those who don’t get enough sleep are prone to a number of health-related issues that can interfere with quality of life and even life expectancy,” said Norwood, owner of Renew Physical Therapy in Seattle. “This can also interfere with healing, especially when regular exercise, rehab and visits to the physical therapist are necessary.”
Multiple studies show that people who struggle to get enough sleep at night are more susceptible to issues and conditions such as weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, a weakened immune system, and even anxiety and depression.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average adult requires between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. School-aged children 6 to 12 years old need 9 to 12 hours per night, while teens require 8 to 10 hours.
“I typically tell people that if they wake up tired, then spend the rest of the day longing for a chance to take a nap, it goes without saying that they’re not getting enough sleep,” Norwood said. “Over time, one will likely find this lack of sleep begins to affect other areas of life, whether it’s mood or a lack of motivation and drive to get things done in their day-to-day activities. It can become a bit of a spiral.”
According to Norwood, if one has trouble getting enough sleep at night, consider the following tips:
- Keep a Schedule: Maintain a regular bed and wake-up schedule, even on the weekends.
- Be Relaxed: Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath, reading a good book or listening to music.
- Consider the Environment: Create a sleep-conducive environment – on a comfortable mattress – that’s quiet, dark, comfortable and cool.
- Careful What You Consume: Have your last meal or snack 2 to 3 hours before bedtime, and avoid consuming caffeine, nicotine and alcohol shortly before you go to bed.
- Cut Off Screen Time: Turn off all lit screens – smartphone, computer, TV, etc. – 30 minutes before lying down.
- Exercise Regularly: Just be sure to complete your exercise regimen a few hours before bedtime.
“It’s no coincidence that people who exercise regularly or who spend their days more physically active often report better sleep than those who are more sedentary,” Norwood said. “We as physical therapists like to use the phrase, ‘movement is medicine,’ and this is yet another example of where this often holds true.”