Home > Body > Health > Expert Tips from The Sleep Doctor on Getting a Good Night’s Rest

How to get quality sleep, the restorative qualities of a power nap and other ways to sleep better.

If you are a parent of a newborn or toddler, the chances are the subject is something that never leaves your consciousness, and you’re always in search of a new method or mechanism to help you and your household achieve a perfect night’s sleep.

Although research states that most babies sleep through the night from 6 months onwards , in reality we know things are often not as cut and dry as theoretical research suggests.  When you factor in night feeds, kids that can’t settle, night terrors and how unique our sleep patterns are as individuals, babies included – the path to getting back to 6-7 hours rest during the night is often a journey filled with peaks and valleys.

And yet our bodies will continue to crave sleep because our lives and health depends on it. It’s not only conducive to the physical and mental development of our children, but it also helps to keep us alive. Sleep is known to help our brain’s function, remove toxins from our bodies, regulate our emotions and even lessen the chance of us developing conditions which are detrimental to our health like obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

So, yes mum clubbers, sleep is a pretty big deal so don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about craving more of it. With this in mind we’ve enlisted the help of Dr Michael Breus AKA The Sleep Doctor to help tackle some of our most common questions about sleep. Dr Breus is a psychologist and leading expert on sleep, who was recently named the Top Sleep Specialist in California.

Q&A with Dr Breus

Conventional wisdom suggests we need to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night, but some people say they are able to function on around 5 hours. Is there a set amount of hours we should be sleeping for or does it depend on the individual?

Yes, and Yes. We all need different amounts of sleep based on age, medical conditions, gender, physical activity, etc. The general rule I tell people is you should never get less than 5.5 hours if at all possible, but most people know how much sleep they need to function. As an older adult, you may have unique sleep problems that you didn’t have in your younger years. Your sleep patterns can change pretty significantly as you age— this has always been the case. As a kid, you needed 9-12 hours each night, as a teenager you needed 8-10, and then as an adult, you needed 7-9 hours.

With so many parents suffering from broken sleep when they have young children, how can they make up for the lack of hours, especially since we are often told that lack of sleep can negatively impact our lives?

This is known as sleep debt and its something I have written about quite extensively. We know that when kids don’t sleep, neither to their parents — specifically their mothers. For both parents, having a child with more than one sleep disorder was associated with greater parental daytime sleepiness Sleep debt is the difference between the amount of sleep you get each night and the amount you should be getting. (For adults, I typically recommend getting about 7.5 hours of sleep each night.) Your sleep debt increases every time you trim a few minutes off your usual sleep schedule, in the same way, your credit card debt increases each time you go on a late-night Amazon shopping spree. Sleep debt can be dangerous, leading to long-term health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, increased stress levels, and a weaker immune system. The good news is that sleep debt isn’t permanent. You can implement simple tips like go to bed and get up within the same half hour window every day. Schedule it, like you would work or exercise. Do ensure that you have a good mattress. Use a natural sleep aid or even my Sleep Calculator to help you target your ideal bedtime.

Can you offer any other practical tips to help us cultivate better sleeping habits?

Yes, certainly. I’d advise waking up at the same time very every day-including weekends. Stop caffeine by 2 pm or earlier. Stop alcohol 3 hours before bed, drink water, and stop at 2 drinks. Exercise daily but not 4 hours before bed. Wake up each morning, and do 15 deep breaths, drink 15 oz of water, and go outside for at least 15 minutes.

What advice would you give to parents who are in the situation where their toddler or infant continually wakes up in the night? What tips can you offer to help the child sleep throughout the duration of the night?

People write entire books on this topic. The one thing that I think we all know works is that you should always put your baby down awake and allow them to self-soothe to get to sleep. Personally speaking, we used an Eat, Sleep, Play programme called Babywise and it worked very well.

It’s almost accepted that when you have a young baby they’ll sleep for short bursts before sleeping for longer periods when they get older. Do you believe that babies can be trained to sleep for longer hours as suggested by some experts and medical experts?

No, babies will sleep until they are hungry, and then they wake. Why would you want them to sleep longer? Then they would not get their nutrition. It might not be fun for parents, but this will change eventually.

To find out more about Dr Michael Breus visit thesleepdoctor.com

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