Sleep through the years
How we sleep, and how our sleep differs is a subject that seems to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds. That is why it was interesting to see The Guardian’s latest weekend edition discussing how our sleep patterns differ as we age.
Silentnight’s resident sleep expert, Dr Nerina, who has spent over 25 years as a sleep and energy expert, gives her views as to why our sleeping patterns change so rapidly as we get older, as well as some much needed tips to ensure we are getting those precious hours of sleep.
During early years, we spend most of our time sleeping and resting. Because of this, babies starting their night time in an active state of sleep (very much like REM) and then slowly progress into the next stage which is known as quiet sleep. In fact, it has been revealed by The Guardian that a premature baby may complete a sleep cycle in as little as half the time it takes an adult.
This is perhaps why so many new parents struggle to deal with their newborn’s sleeping pattern. If new parents are finding it difficult to switch off and most importantly, turn off, Dr Nerina proposes changing the bedroom environment, which can be really beneficial. For example, she suggests placing a few drops of lavender in a cup of hot water on the windowsill 20 minutes or so before you go to bed. This can really help to slow your heartbeat, relax your muscles and encourage a slow wave sleep.
Silentnight and the University of Leeds recently revealed that 36 per cent of primary school age children get eight hours or less sleep a night, which is significantly less than newborns who can get anywhere between 14-17 hours of sleep.
However, it is important for children’s development that they are getting a good quality night’s sleep. Dr Nerina says: “Creating a sleeping routine for your child is vital in ensuring that they receive a good, quality night’s sleep as well as helping them to deal with any stress and anxiety that they might be experiencing.
“A simple routine can be created by encouraging your child to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, as well as reducing the amount of time your child spends on a digital device before bed.
The most dramatic shift in our sleeping patterns occurs when we hit the teenage years. A study published last year by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed more than fifty percent of children aged between 11-13 were not getting the recommended amount of sleep that they needed.
This can be down to a number of reasons including puberty, social exhaustion and mental health. However, with sleep becoming increasingly more important for development and dealing with everyday stresses, Dr Nerina said, “Limiting the amount of time teenagers spend on their digital devices before bed can really help them to switch off from the outside world. But also having a healthy diet and making sure they eat breakfast every day can really help to boost the hormones serotonin and melatonin, which are vital for a good night’s sleep.”
As we reach 20 years of age, we essentially leave adolescent and are considered “adults”. This results in us hitting the pillow a lot earlier compared to our teenage years.
However, with the recommended amount of sleep for an adult being eight hours, many adults have reported that due to their rush-hour lifestyle, that this can be very difficult to achieve. This being said, Dr Nerina has provided a few key tips that adults can use in their everyday life to ensure that they are receiving all eight hours sleep. Find the full of list of tips here.
She suggests: “reducing caffeine and alcohol is probably the most important step that adults can do to ensure they are getting a quality night’s sleep.”
However, if adults are struggling to say no to their favourite alcoholic beverage, Dr Nerina also suggests a simple action of “creating a calm zone”. By creating this calm and stress-free sanctuary in your bedroom, it allows you to physically shut out the stresses of modern day life, which can include work, school, children and even your relationship.