Woman sleeping

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 35.2% of adults in the U.S. get less than seven hours of sleep per night. This can be caused by a multitude of reasons including poor sleep hygiene, lifestyle choices, family obligations, sleep disorders, and other medical and mental health conditions. At Genesis, many women and children also report experiencing sleep disturbances such as difficulty falling asleep, waking throughout the night, and nightmares. It is common for survivors of domestic violence, and any trauma, to experience sleep concerns and sleep disturbancesThe National Sleep Foundation recommends the following amount of sleep for each age group:

● Newborn (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
● Infant (4-12 months): 12-15 hours
● Toddler (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
● Preschool (3-5 years): 10-13 hours
● School-age (6-12 years): 9-11 hours
● Teen (13-18 years): 8-10 hours
● Adult (18-65): 7-9 hours
● Older adult (65+ years): 7-8 hours

So what’s so important about getting enough sleep? In the world of occupational therapy, a health profession, rest and sleep play a major role in an individual’s ability to engage in daily activities. Getting the recommended amount of quality sleep is essential across the lifespan to participate in everyday roles and responsibilities whether it be school, work, or play. Research shows sleep insufficiency and sleep deprivation is linked to chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. Additionally, mood changes, feelings of anxiety, depression, stress, and irritability may arise. Also, a lack of sleep can reduce your productivity and overall quality of life. 

Sleep is an essential tool to help your brain and body recover from everyday stressors such as job demands, raising children, or experiencing symptoms related to trauma. All of these stressors can take a toll on your health. Research shows that improving sleep can have a beneficial impact on your physical, emotional, and mental health. Your brain is actually working while you are sleeping to repair and prepare for the next day. Sleep helps to recharge your brain battery by promoting improved thinking, learning, memory, and attention. Getting a good night’s rest supports your immune system to prevent or limit infections leaving you refreshed and ready to take on the day.

Implementing healthy habits can help to improve your quality of sleep. Here are some ideas:

Set up your sleep-friendly space:

● Dim or turn off all your lights
● Choose a comfortable mattress and pillow
● Set a cool yet comfortable temperature (around 65 degrees Fahrenheit is recommended)
● Use a white noise machine to drown out external noises
● Try calming scents like lavender or peppermint

Create a healthy routine:

● Get up at the same time and go to bed at the same time daily
● For adults, avoid daytime naps longer than 15-30 minutes
● Turn off all electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime
● Do the same nighttime tasks (i.e. take a warm bath/shower, brush your teeth, put on your pajamas) in preparation for bed. This will help your mind and body recognize that it is time to sleep 

Practice good habits to prepare your mind and body:

● Exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet
● Avoid consuming coffee, tea, and soda before bedtime (stopping caffeine intake before noon is recommended)
● Reduce alcohol consumption before bedtime
● Avoid smoking. Nicotine can stimulate the body and disrupt sleep. 
● Try relaxing exercises such as light yoga, tai chi, or meditation
● Try mindfulness or deep breathing apps (i.e. Calm, Headspace, and Smiling Mind are good options)

We recommend trying these ideas and implementing it into your daily routine. One idea is to start out three times a week then build up until it becomes a habit. Hopefully these tips will help improve your overall rest and sleep!

For more information, visit:
Brochure about Occupational Therapy Services
American Academy of Sleep Medicine
American Sleep Association
Sleep Foundation

Written by Kristen Maravilla, OTD Student Intern at Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support.