It doesn’t take long going without sleep to understand just how much the human body needs it. Getting the right amount of sleep for your stage in life, however, can be problematic. That’s why sleep schedules are so important. They help train the body to expect sleep at certain times of the day and to be awake at other times during the day.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
The problem many people have is that they keep to a routine for sleep throughout the week, but on the weekend they stay up later at night and sleep in the next morning. This throws their bodies’ circadian clocks, or sleep cycle, off balance. In some cases, it resets the bodies’ natural sleep clocks completely. Keeping to a normal sleep schedule on the weekend eliminates the chaos that follows when your body is out of sync with its sleep needs.
The National Sleep Foundation has created a nice chart explaining how much sleep is needed at different life stages. They explain various methods you can follow to get the proper amount of sleep to meet your needs at any stage in life. The very first thing they recommend is establishing a consistent sleep and wake schedule. This includes weekends.
Infants and Sleep
Babies need a lot of sleep. According to the time chart, they need up to 18 hours of day as newborns, and as many as 15 for their first year of life. So how do you make sure they’re getting the right amount of sleep?
The good thing with infants is that they can sleep pretty much anywhere and at any time. This isn’t always the case, however, as they approach that important milestone of the first birthday. The best course of action is to create a set schedule for sleep throughout the day. They don’t sleep in one long 18 hour shift, after all.
Try to create scheduled nap times during the week that are convenient for your work scheduling needs and adhere to the same schedule on the weekend. This will avoid some of the major meltdowns for everyone and keep your baby well-rested for optimal growth and contentment.
Toddlers and Sleep
Many cases attributed to the “terrible two’s” may be simple lack of consistent nap times or insufficient sleep. The problem with that age is that they lack the reasoning and verbalization skills to explain that they’re cranky because they’re tired. The real problem is that when toddlers and preschool children become overly tired, they have a tendency to fight sleep – which leads to a major contest of will between toddler and parent.
How do you establish a sleep schedule when your toddler is fighting tooth and nail? Create a routine. Make it fun for your child, and for you, and stick to the routine. Their young bodies will begin to understand that 1:00 is nap time and 8:00 is bedtime each night once a consistent routine is established. The routine should take about 30 minutes and may include things like story time, singing lullabies together, brushing teeth, bath time, etc. It needs to be followed by quiet time in bed. At most, offer soothing music to your child to aid in sleep.
Other recommendations by the Diagnostic Clinic, include: turning off all electronics, removing toys from the bed, darkening windows if it’s still light outside, and keeping a consistent wake time for the little ones even on weekends and summer vacation.
Teens and Sleep
Teens still need more sleep than the average adult. Their bodies are growing and hormones are firing. It’s a tiring existence. Sadly, most teens do not get the 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep they need each night. The CDC states that only 31 percent of them get at least eight hours of sleep at night.
As if teens don’t have enough moodiness on their own, lack of sleep has a profound impact on teen moods, anxiety, and the likelihood of suicide as well. Before parents of moody teens make a run on the local melatonin supply, try these teens and sleep tips recommended by the National Health Services (UK) to help your teen sleep: eliminate caffeine in the afternoon and evening, create a bedtime ritual, establish an electronics curfew, don’t allow overeating shortly before bedtime, and consider a new mattress if your teen is having trouble getting comfortable for sleep.
Adults and Sleep
Adults often face the most challenges on their sleep time. Between work responsibilities, their roles as parents, and their interests in having full lives, there never seem to be quite enough hours in the day. Unfortunately, these desires and responsibilities do not diminish the adult body’s need for seven to nine hours of daily sleep.
For adults who have difficulty working sleep into their busy lives, consider these tips for getting a little more. Sleep in shifts. There’s no hard and fast rule that says you must get those hours of sleep consecutively. Keep your room dark to maximize your ability to sleep when you can grab that all important snooze time. Sleep on a schedule – yes weekends too. Consider using a mobile sleep app or sleep alarm that wakes you at the best stage of sleep for maximum effectiveness.
Seniors and Sleep
Sleep and aging are often linked together because seniors are often sleep deprived. There are many reasons this is the case. Many of them are on medications that impact sleep. Others have chronic pain illnesses that limit their ability to stay asleep. And some of them simply have to get up constantly throughout the night for trips to the bathroom. WebMD suggests a few things seniors can do to get their sleep back on schedule: schedule daily nap times, ask doctors for medication changes or dosage adjustments, exercise, and spend a little time in the sun whenever possible.
Sleep is necessary across the board and for people of all ages. The difference is in the number of hours of sleep that are needed at various stages throughout the human life cycle. This is the primary reason sleep schedules are so important in today’s busy world.
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