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Sleep for the Stages of Life

Sleep like a baby is not just a saying; it’s a truth. As adults we envy them both the amount and quality of sleep they get. Most infants sleep about 16 hours a day at first in short segments but then gradually sorting it out to a longer nighttime sleep and several naps. The naps disappear one at a time and by age 3, many children give them up entirely. That’s not to say that a child doesn’t need a nap on a particularly busy day. Preschools and kindergartens often have naptime. By age 4 or 5 most children are sleeping 12 hours at night. That amount gradually reduces over the next few years until the teen age years when kids become very busy and very social. Even so, a teen still needs 9 hours of sleep and a lot of them don’t get it, resulting in drowsiness at school. Sleep needs can vary and teens and parents should be aware of what is the healthiest amount for their children.

By adulthood, most of us are aware if we can function well on 6 hours or need the full 8 to be productive.Job stress and family demands often cut into the amount of sleep adults get. A sleep-deprived person has slower eye-hand coordination, can be a dangerous driver, and can just plain feel lousy. Determining how much sleep is needed and getting it are hot topics these days. More and more individuals are being diagnosed with sleep apnea, a dangerous disorder in which the individual stops breathing during sleep. Sleep labs are aids to diagnosing this problem and, once diagnosed, sleep apnea is treatable.

For persons in their 60’s or older, insomnia is a frequent topic of conversation. As we age, our deep sleep stages lessen and we are more wakeful, creating anxiety in some. Sometimes just being reassured that changes in sleeping patterns are normal is all that is needed to help the person relax and sleep better.

Sleep is a fascinating topic. The very need for it makes us vulnerable. From the soldier trying to get a catnap on the frontline to the elderly person who dreads going to bed only to lie awake, sleep is the miracle restorer that is often hard to come by. For most of us (not the soldier) just understanding sleep needs, treating sleep disorders, and creating restful areas to sleep in can give us what we need to restore our bodies at night. Avoiding caffeine, stimulating exercise, and television after a certain hour also helps to guarantee sleep. You don’t need to sleep like a baby to be well-rested, but you do need to sleep like a healthy adult.