As a lifelong night owl, having a job that requires me to be a morning person has been a bit of a challenge.
I come by this honestly. I was never one of those kids that woke up at 4 a.m. on Christmas morning wanting to get a jump on seeing what Santa brought. My parents had to drag me out of bed.
As I get older, I realize I can’t just sleep for four or five hours a night and still be my best. Or, sometimes, feel even semi-human.
So, I have been making changes. The biggest one has been realizing that just because I designate a certain time for bed doesn’t mean I can do activities up until then. I have to wind down.
Sleep Awareness Week is March 8-14 this year. It’s a great time to discuss this basic activity that many people might not realize contributes so much to the quality of life.
It’s also one of the practices Monongalia County Health Department likes to emphasize, especially this time of year, as a way to bolster the immune system and to put you in a better position to ward off illness, including influenza.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov/sleep), adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night. One in three adults do not get enough sleep, and apparently, this is another list on which West Virginia falls on the wrong end. In 2014, between 38% and 44% of West Virginia adults reported consistently getting less than seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour period, which put us in the highest percentile along with Kentucky, Ohio, Maryland and other states.
Getting a good night’s sleep isn’t always easy, for a variety of reasons. But it really does help to set yourself up with practices that will lead to a better night of shut-eye.
Here are some tips from the CDC:
– Be consistent. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, even on weekends.
– Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing and a comfortable temperature.
– Remove electronic devices.
– Avoid large meals, caffeine and alcohol before bedtime.
– Exercise. Physical activity during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night. But don’t exercise right before bed.
If you make these changes and still have trouble sleeping, there are other steps you can take. I, for one, have gotten out of the habit of obsessing about anything, including the time, if I am having trouble sleeping. Looking at the clock and calculating how much (or little) rest you will get if you fall asleep in five minutes only ensures that you will not fall asleep in five minutes.
If you can also avoid thinking about work, to-do lists, stresses that you have in your life — that also is ideal.
There is more information — from A to Zzzzz — available on the CDC website at cdc.gov/sleep. Perhaps this will answer some questions, although probably not this one: Why is “40 winks” a good night’s sleep? It is five winks per hour for a solid eight hours.
Contact Mary Wade Triplett at 304-598-5152 or at MaryWade.Triplett@wv.gov. Find out more about the health department at monchd.org, on Facebook and Twitter @wvmchd and on Instagram at wvmchd.