By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor
Players who sleep better perform better on the field. Getting proper rest can help improve health, mood, memory, judgment and safety. Eliminate minor sleep problems by creating a comfortable sleep environment, maintaining a healthful balance of nutrition and exercise, and engaging in relaxing activities near bedtime.
Pay Attention to Your Sleepiness.
Sleep needs and patterns of sleep and wakefulness are not the same for everyone. The first step in determining your need for sleep is through self-evaluation. Ask yourself: “How tired do I feel during the daytime? When do I feel most alert? When does fatigue set in?” Even moments of sleepiness that you may think of as routine are likely a sign that you are not getting enough sleep.
Keep a Sleep Diary.
A very helpful tool to track your sleep time and patterns is a sleep diary. Used in sleep research and clinical settings, a sleep diary is a handy reference to help people become familiar with their own natural patterns of sleep and wakefulness. The information that you will record in the sleep diary is simple and straightforward. It includes the time you go to bed, the time you wake up, your total hours of sleep, and whether you had any nighttime awakenings (and if so, how long you were awake) and any daytime naps. In addition, noting how you feel upon awakening (refreshed or tired), and how you feel at different times of the day will enable you to become more aware of your patterns, and help you determine if you are getting adequate sleep.
Take a Sleep Vacation.
Another method for determining your sleep need is to take a “sleep vacation.” During a two-week period, when you have a flexible schedule or perhaps are on vacation, pick a consistent bedtime and do not use an alarm clock to wake up. Chances are that for the first few days or week you will sleep longer because you’ll be paying off your “sleep debt”—the amount of sleep deprivation that you’ve accumulated over a period of time. If you continue going to bed at the same time and allowing your body to wake up naturally, you will eventually establish a pattern of sleeping essentially the same amount of time each night, probably in the range of 7 to 9 hours.
Make Sleep a Priority.
Now that you know how much sleep you need—and if you’ve allowed your body to pay back your sleep debt and “find” its natural sleep patterns and duration—you are probably also feeling a lot better, sharper, happier, and healthier. This is how it feels to be well rested. The next step is to make sure that you continue to make sleep a priority and find ways to protect your sleep time.
Consult a Sleep Specialist.
You may still be experiencing daytime sleepiness, fatigue, or insomnia. If that’s the case, you should consider consulting a sleep specialist.
How Much Sleep Is Enough Sleep?
The majority of healthy adults require between 7.5 to 8.5 hours per 24-hour period. This is true from young adulthood through late in life, though many older people have difficulty sleeping in a single block of time each night. Generally, sleep needs during a 24-hour period follow this pattern:
Newborns (1 to 2 months) – 10.5 to 18 hours
Infants (3 to 11 months) – 10 to 14 hours
Toddlers (1 to 3 years) – 12 to 14 hours
Preschoolers (3 to 5 years) – 11 to 13 hours
School-aged children (5 to 12 years) – 10 to 11 hours
Adolescents (12 to 18 years) – 8.5 to 9.5 hours
Adults (18 years to the end of life) – 7.5 to 8.5 hours
Even without considering genetics and age, the National Sleep Foundation’s 2008 Sleep in America poll found that many adults are apparently not meeting their sleep needs, sleeping an average of only 6 hours and 40 minutes during the week, and about 7.5 hours on the weekends. Sleep scientists and physicians have a variety of methods to help determine if you are getting enough sleep.
Do you have a thought about this article that you would like to share? If you do, email managing editor Dan Guttenplan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tweet us @fnfcoaches.