Three factors determine why we sleep the way we do:
- Circadian rhythm (your biological rhythm). When nighttime hits. your energy naturally goes down just like the sun.
- Melatonin surges at night. It is a hormone that, in animals, causes the anticipation of darkness.
- Sleep drive or sleep pressure increases when daylight wanes. Infants succumb to naps because of sleep pressure. They need about 12 hours of sleep daily. Elementary-age kids need about 10 hours.
- Between the ages of 14 and 21, their circadian rhythm shifts and they're not ready to sleep until after midnight.
- Boys release their pituitary gland (involved in growth) from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. and because they're growing in their sleep, they don't get the kind of deep, sound rest they need. If they "catch up" on the weekends, let them. They're not being lazy, they're growing.
- Sleep is a huge safety factor for teens. In those school districts where they have pushed back high school start time by 45 minutes, there have been reductions in teenage-involved traffic accidents by as much as 85%.
When you can't control how much sleep you get, your main goal should be to eat as healthy as possible.
So, what's all the fuss about sleep and health? Oh boy, read this:
- If you compare two 40-year olds with generally the same level of health and one is chronically sleep-deprived and the other has overall healthy sleep patterns, the sleep-deprived person is twice as likely to die around age 60.
- If you're sleep-deprived for two years, you are 42% more likely to develop Type II diabetes.
- There's a serious increase in the risk of breast and prostate cancer with increasing levels of sleep deprivation and poor sleep quality.
- The effects of poor sleep or insufficient amounts of sleep aren't readily seen at times. If you've haven't slept well the month before flu season starts, you are more likely to come down with it, have a more serious bout of it and take longer to recover from it.
- Pain sensitivity increases with decreased sleep.
For example, with the wide availability of digital devices, our eyes are taking in more "blue light" in the evening which impacts sleep. If you must check your cell phone before bed, make sure you put it on the "night shift" mode which has a "warmer light".
You can catch up on sleep. In order to get the amount of sleep that is right for you, make note of the hours that you actually sleep and make sure you catch up when you can. It makes a big difference in your emotional state and your health.
Be aware of your own sleep patterns and especially those of your children. Help them to understand the importance of sleep and explore ways to help them get the rest they need.
As always, just do the best you can,