Have you ever thought about why we sleep and/or why is sleep so important? You haven’t, great! Let me tell you why this is so. Sleep is important because it contributes to our health and overall quality of life. Just like our bodies require food, water, and oxygen, it also requires sleep to be able to function in our daily lives. According to Tester & Foss (2018) “sleep is a state of altered consciousness during which the body rests and restores itself.” Typically, newborns sleep up to 18 hours a day, school-aged children need 10-11 hours, teens need 9 hours, and adults 7-8 hours (Gentry & Loveland, 2013). Fifty-percent of people report they do not get the sleep they need, and thus can sleep to sleep or wakefulness disorders such as insomnia, parasomnias, sleep apnea, and pain syndromes (Richardson, 2007; Tester & Foss, 2018). Further, poor sleep has been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, cancer, as well as an increased risk for mortality (Institute of Medicine, 2006). Thus, when our sleep is insufficient, our mood, brain functions, and healing processes are compromised, and this can affect our engagement in social interactions, work, education, and daily functioning in general.
Occupational therapists are professionals who have adequate knowledge and are well positioned to understand how illness, a person’s environment, their habits and routines, and psychosocial factors affect sleep (Green, 2008). Although diagnosis of sleep disorders is not within the scope of occupational therapy practice, our profession is able to assess sleep and its impact on participation. Occupational therapists assess a person’s sleep through qualitative measures to help identify a person’s impression of their sleep quality, number and type of disruptions, participation, and sleep habits and routines (Tester & Foss, 2018). Such measures of sleep help occupational therapy practitioners identify sleep-related problems and establish approaches to intervention. Common interventions used by occupational therapists are energy conservation, meditation, rest breaks, strategies to help prep for bedtime and/or rest, pacing strategies, and schedules based on peak energy levels. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has also been reported to help alleviate sleep disturbances and an approach that can be used by occupational therapists and can promote awareness of factors influencing sleep (Tester & Foss, 2018).
Occupational therapist and their clinics and departments can take a variety of steps to enhance awareness of the importance of sleep and incorporate sleep-related considerations into practice. If you have concerns about you or your child’s quality of sleep, please feel free to contact an occupational therapist here at All Care Therapies.
Gentry, T., & Loveland, J. (2013). Sleep - essential to living life to its fullest . Retrieved from AOTA: www.aota.org
Green, A. (2008). Sleep, occupation, and the passage of time. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71, 339-347.
Institute of Medicine. (2006). Functional and economic impact of sleep loss and sleep-related disorders. In H. Colten, & B. Altevogt, Sleep disorders and sleep deprivation: An unmet public health problem (pp. 137-172). Washington, D.C.: National Academics Press.
Richardson, G. S. (2007). Human physiological models of insomina. Sleep Medicine, 8, 9-14.
Tester, N. J., & Foss, J. J. (2018). The issue is - sleep an an occupational need. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 72(1), 1-4.