The Importance of Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is important for your overall health. Read on for tips about good sleep hygiene & habits, and information on insomnia & how to beat it.

Normal sleep and sleep hygiene

How much sleep do you need?
Humans adapt to the 24-hour cycles of light and dark using their internal clocks (circadian rhythms). These clocks dictate that adults have one major episode of sleep at night typically lasting about 8 hours – ranging from 6 to 9 hours per night. Each person must determine his or her own sleep need. You can determine this ideal amount of sleep by simply paying attention to whether or not you feel rested in the morning and alert throughout the day. If no amount of sleep will make you feel rested on the next day, then you may want to seek medical advice, including being be evaluated for a sleep disorder.
People tend to sleep about 30 minutes longer on weekends, indicating that they may be accumulating a sleep debt during the week. It is important to understand that you cannot “catch up” on lost sleep, or store sleep for the future, by getting more on weekends! This is because lost sleep on any given night has immediate consequences for the very next day (e.g. driving, work performance, memory and learning). Research indicates that sleep loss impairs your response time, motor ability, visual acuity, memory and attention.

Changes in sleep across the lifespan

The timing and duration of sleep change dramatically as we age. A newborn baby may sleep as much as 16 hours per day! Adolescents will sleep 9 hours on average although they prefer to go to bed later and wake up later than the usual 11 to 7 bedtime. This shift to a later sleep time is a normal pattern for teens; however, their school schedules preclude this desired pattern and as a result many teens are chronically sleep deprived.
Sleep in adults can be quite organized and efficient (meaning they sleep at regular clock times, fall asleep quickly, and have very little wakefulness during the night); however, lifestyle factors, behaviours, and poor sleep habits can grossly disrupt sleep in otherwise healthy adults.
During later life, sleep becomes shorter in duration (about 6 hours on average); there is less time spent in deep sleep; arousals during the night are more frequent and for longer periods of time; and there is a tendency to nap during the day. Older adults prefer go to bed earlier and wake up earlier. This shift to an earlier sleep time is a normal pattern for older adults. Just as the teenager does not stay in bed later because they are lazy, the older adult does not go to bed earlier for lack of anything better to do with their time – the timing of when we sleep and when we wake is governed by our internal circadian clocks.

What about naps?

Daytime napping is natural for most toddlers. At about age 6 to 12 years, however, sleep begins to occur in a single nighttime episode. Napping behaviour is usually put aside until retirement age. Naps are generally only acceptable for people who have no difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at night. Otherwise, the time you spend napping during the day may take away from your total sleep time at night.
The optimal duration for a nap, whether during the daytime or while on the job for shift-workers, is 10-20 minutes. If you cannot get through the day without a long nap, despite also sleeping long hours at night, you should be evaluated for a sleep disorder.


Tips for a good night’s sleep

Make sleep a priority! In today’s busy world, too many people simply do not make the time for sleep. Are you allowing yourself enough time in bed to get the sleep you need? It is a good idea to keep track of how much sleep you are getting by keeping a “sleep diary”. You can do this by making note of your lights-out and wake-up times each day, taking care to note any time out of bed during the night. Also keep track of consumption of alcohol and caffeine.
Practice good sleep hygiene!
  • Go to bed only when sleepy. Try a relaxing bedtime routine (e.g., soaking in a bath).
  • Establish a good sleep environment with limited distractions (noise, light, temperature).
  • Avoid foods, beverages, and medications that may contain stimulants.
  • Avoid alcohol and nicotine before going to sleep.
  • Consume less or no caffeine.
  • Exercise regularly, but do so around midday or early afternoon. Over-training or exercising too much is not advisable.
  • Try behavioral/relaxation techniques to assist with physical and mental relaxation.
  • Avoid naps in late afternoon and evening.
  • Avoid heavy meals close to bedtime.
  • Avoid fluids before going to sleep.
  • Use the bed only for sleep and intimacy (do not eat, read or watch TV in bed!).
  • Establish a regular wake time schedule.



What is insomnia?
Insomnia is a condition that may involve problems falling asleep at bedtime, waking up in the middle of the night, or awakening too early in the morning and not being able to go back to sleep. Sleep can also be perceived as light and of poor quality. Insomnia becomes a clinical problem when a person experiences trouble falling or staying asleep three or more nights per week, daytime functioning is impaired, and sleep difficulties have persisted for more than one month.
How prevalent is insomnia?
One-third of the adult population reports insomnia symptoms, and for about one-third of them (10% of the population), it is a persistent problem that impairs daytime functioning. Insomnia is more common among women, older adults, shift workers, and people with medical or psychological disorders.

What are the main causes of insomnia?

Stress, anxiety, and depression are the most common causes of insomnia. Chronic insomnia may, on the other hand, increase the risk of developing depression. Medical illnesses can also disrupt sleep due to underlying symptoms (pain), the treatment used to alleviate those symptoms, or the emotional distress about the illness. Prescribed and over-the-counter medications can cause insomnia as a side effect. Insomnia can also be induced by excessive use of caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.
Insomnia may be caused by another sleep disorder. The restless leg syndrome is a condition that produces an uncomfortable sensation in the calves and an irresistible urge to move the legs during wakefulness, particularly in the evening. It is often associated with periodic limb movements, a condition characterized by frequent movements of the legs or arms during sleep. Sleep apnea (a breathing disorder during sleep) can also cause insomnia, although it is more frequently associated with excessive daytime sleepiness.

What are the treatment options for insomnia?

The first step in treating insomnia is to identify and treat the underlying cause (e.g., pain, depression). Insomnia may sometimes persist after the underlying condition is treated. Then, the two main treatment options for insomnia are medications and behavioural interventions.
Sleep medication
Hypnotic medications are helpful to alleviate sleep disturbances resulting from situational stress (e.g., hospitalization, separation), changes in sleep schedule due to jet lag, and for sleep disturbances associated with some medical or psychiatric conditions. These medications should be used only for a short period of time because they lose their efficacy and there is a risk of dependency when used on a nightly basis over a prolonged period of time. Some of these medications may produce residual effects the next day (e.g., drowsiness) and interfere with your daytime functioning. Despite their widespread availability, over-the-counter sleep aids and herbal/dietary supplements are of limited benefits for insomnia. Because Health Canada does not regulate these products, there is always a risk that they do not contain exactly what is on the product labels.


Behaviour therapy

There are several behavioural treatment methods for insomnia. These interventions are designed to reduce tension, change poor sleep habits and scheduling factors, alter misconceptions about sleep, and teach coping strategies to manage the effects of insomnia.
  • Learn to relax. Relaxation is helpful when stress or anxiety is part of an insomnia problem. Some relaxation exercises are designed to reduce physical tension, whereas others seek to eliminate intrusive thoughts and worries at bedtime.
  • Give yourself at least one hour to unwind before bedtime. Use this transitional period to read, watch television, listen to music, or simply relax. Do not ruminate about events of the day. Rather, write down your worries and set aside another time to deal with them.
  • Go to bed only when sleepy. Insomniacs often go to bed too early. Such practice is counterproductive because the bed becomes a cue for wakefulness rather than for sleep. Postpone your bedtime until you are sleepy.
  • Get out of bed if you can’t sleep. If you can’t fall asleep or return to sleep within 15-20 minutes, get up, go to another room, and engage in some quiet activity. When you feel that sleep is imminent, return to bed. Do not sleep on the couch, as this would only create an association between sleep and the couch, not with your bed.
  • Arise at the same time every morning. Set the alarm clock and get out of bed at the same time every morning, weekdays and weekends, regardless of the amount of sleep obtained on the previous night. Sticking to a schedule will help regulate your internal biological clock and synchronize your sleep/wake rhythm.
  • Reserve your bed and bedroom for sleep only. Do not read, watch television, or worry in bed either during the day or at night. When you engage in these practices, the bedroom becomes associated with wakefulness rather than with sleepiness.
  • Avoid daytime napping. Among insomnia sufferers, napping is generally counterproductive. A nap disrupts the natural sleep/wake rhythm and interferes with night-time sleep.
  • Restrict the amount of time you spend in bed to your actual sleep time. Insomniacs often spend excessive amounts of time in bed in a misguided attempt to ensure that they get enough sleep. Spending too much time spent in bed, may actually lead to poorer sleep quality.


Sleep hygiene

Several lifestyle factors may promote or interfere with sleep. Maintaining good sleep hygiene practices helps prevent or minimize sleep difficulties.
  • Avoid stimulants (e.g., caffeine, nicotine) several hours before bedtime.
  • Do not drink alcohol too close to bedtime. Alcohol consumption can lead to early morning awakenings.
  • Regular exercise in late afternoon or early evening may deepen sleep.
  • Keep the bedroom environment quiet, dark, and comfortable.


Important information

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Copy content included in this article is © BestLifeRewarded, 2014
This information has been provided by the Canadian Sleep Society from their brochure “Normal Sleep and Sleep Hygiene”, 2003. The Canadian Sleep Society provides trusted, unbiased, science-based sleep information.
The information provided in these brochures is only intended to be a general summary. The information is not intended to take the place of a medical consultation. If you need specific advice about a sleep disorder, please seek a professional who is licensed or knowledgeable in that area. The Canadian Sleep Society board, members, and other agents disclaim any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary, or other damages arising from any person following the information provided in the brochures or on the Web site with respect to any diagnosis, treatment, action, or application of medication or other preparation. The CSS does not endorse specific products or services, and any implications as such are unintentional.
This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your doctor. There may be variations in treatment that your physician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances. If you have questions about your symptoms, ask the Pharmacist at Walmart for more information, and/or contact your doctor.
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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