We all know how much better we feel after a solid night’s sleep. Yet, instead of thinking about sleep as a solid foundation to good health, some people treat getting shut-eye like it’s a luxury for babies, retirees, and cats. They cheat themselves out of a solid seven to nine hours in exchange for lot of things, like doing more work, mindlessly scrolling social media, or binge-watching their favorite shows on Netflix. We talked to Alika Antone, Doctor of Physical Therapy and owner of A2 Physical Therapy in Tacoma, about why getting quality sleep should be your top priority, and how to do it better.
How much sleep should an average adult get every night?
Seven to nine hours. This will vary between individuals. Most people have heard of “eight hours” as an estimate, but it’s important to know that you may need closer to seven or nine hours to get the proper required sleep for your body. Many people don’t know that you actually accumulate “sleep debt.” So, if you miss out on an hour one night, you need to “pay back” sleep with an additional hour the next night. (Sleep debt is manageable at first, but not over the long-term.)
When you meet with patients, are you finding that they are often sleep-deprived?
Yes, sleep-deprived, stressed, and lacking time for themselves. Which leads to nutritional and hydration deficits, salt and sugar cravings, etc. Stress promotes the release of cortisol, which can trigger pain, weight gain, fatigue, and disease. The brain considers sleep debt a “stress.”
Besides being tired, moody, and spending all of your extra cash at coffee shops, what can lack of sleep do?
Not getting enough sleep can lead to increased risk of injury and a reduced pain threshold; greater susceptibility to sickness; reduced physical and psychological performance; increased anxiety, irritability, and mistakes; and increased body fat.
Dr. Antone’s Tips to a Better Night’s Sleep
- First, talk to a health care professional if you think you might have a medical sleeping disorder.
- Resolve daily dilemmas outside of the bedroom. You can try making a “worry” list to get things off of your mind.
- Play 10 minutes of Tetris or another puzzle game to “reboot” your brain, and to stop the “worry” cycle.
- The bedroom is not an office — be wary of bringing technology to bed. Turn off screens and lights an hour or two before bedtime.
- Establish a bedtime routine, and be consistent. Try taking a hot bath or shower, read a book, or journal. Listen to a relaxing app like “Calm,” or try playing soft music.
- Practice diaphragmatic breathing, and work on being more mindful.
- Sleep on your side with a pillow between your legs to help align your spine/hips.
- During the day, get exercise — it will help alleviate anxiety, and you will sleep better later.