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Putting to bed those myths about sleep
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Forsyth County News

Do you get enough sleep at night? Do you even know how much sleep is enough?

Did you know every mammal and bird, most reptiles, amphibians, and even fish need sleep to function? That said, most humans are not getting enough.

According to many sleep experts, most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a night for optimal health and alertness. Teenagers need more, although most don’t get it. Simply put, sleep is essential for our bodies.

Parents of young children rarely get enough sleep. I well remember the feeling of sleep deprivation when our children were babies, especially after our fourth child was born. I had serious sleep deprivation for months, walking around in a “fog.”

I remember crying sometimes because I was so sleepy. I always feel for moms with babies and young children. As my mother always said to me, “This too shall pass.”

Insufficient sleep is truly a health hazard, and the CDC says it is a public health epidemic.

Lack of sleep contributes to depression, aging, weight gain, even arguing with your spouse more.

One current trend is “coffee naps.” A “coffee nap” is a 15-to-20-minute nap taken immediately after consuming a cup of coffee.

The premise of a coffee nap is that in a short nap, the brain doesn’t have time to enter the deep sleep cycle.

Since the caffeine in the coffee takes about 20 minutes to reach the brain, we wake up having had some sleep and then a jolt of caffeine kicks in.

I’m not a napper and never have been. Even when I was sleep deprived, I was never able to nap.

Some people can nap on command. But after reading sleep studies, I wonder if those people are just sleep deprived to begin with.

What do sleep experts say contributes to a restful, good night’s sleep? Most are things common sense would suggest.

A good mattress almost always tops the list. Considering we spend a third of our lives in bed, this seems like a good investment. I would add to that a good mattress pad and sheets.

Another thing to consider is white noise. We have always had a lot of white noise at night. My favorite is the sound of crickets, streaming from my tablet. We also have a loud fan.

When the kids were babies, we still had white noise, but I would sleep with the baby monitor by my ear.

Experts all agree a room that is cool helps. Our room is closer to freezing than cool, because Paul cannot sleep if he’s the least bit warm. We make sure to always have an extra blanket available.

Sleep experts also warn that sleeping longer on the weekends is a sign of not getting enough sleep. They also say to go to bed and get up at the same times on the weekend as during the week.

I have never been a night owl. Even as a young person, I went to bed fairly early. That means that even on the weekends, I cannot sleep late.

Sometimes I wake up at 6 a.m. on Saturday, when we no longer have to get up that early.

I try to quietly creep out of the room, but inevitably Paul wakes up and remarks how great it is that we are still getting up at 6 a.m. on Saturdays, just like we had to when four little people piled into our bed demanding breakfast and cartoons.

For those who suspect they are not getting enough sleep, and many studies say that 40 percent of us aren’t, try implementing some or all of these suggestions as soon as possible.

One last thing, the more of a routine before bedtime — just like with young children — the better. Our bodies and brains like a routine before we retire. Perhaps take a warm bath, sip on a cup of herbal tea and read a book before turning off the lights.

And don’t eat too closely to bedtime or drink caffeine after 1 or 2 p.m. Sweet dreams.


Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at