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September 07, 2017
People in their 30s have mostly left behind the sleep habits of their college years, but many of us have a whole new set of bedtime-related woes. Relationships, families, and work may be some of the most important and fulfilling aspects of our lives, but they can also be some of our greatest impediments to a good night’s sleep. So just how much sleep do you need in your 30s, and what can you do if you’re not getting enough of it?
The National Sleep Foundation, one of the nation’s leading sleep education and advocacy organizations, recently overhauled its recommendations for amount of sleep needed based on age. They added a new category, “younger adults,” which encompasses people ages 18 to 25. This age group needs less sleep than teenagers, but a little more sleep than older adults, in part because the brain is still developing up to approximately age 25.
So what does this mean for people in their 30s? By the time you hit 30, your brain is fully developed and you process information primarily through your prefrontal cortex, so the brain requires just a little less rest than it did during its period of maturation. The sleep recommendation for people ages 25 to 64 is seven to nine hours per night. In some cases, as few as six or as many as 10 hours may be appropriate, but the National Sleep Foundation doesn’t recommend less than six. Sleep requirements, of course, vary greatly by individual–some people are fine with six hours of sleep per night, while others can’t function optimally on less than eight.
By the time you reach your 30s, you probably have a set schedule and a specific time to get up every day, unlike the college years when you could sleep until noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays because you had carefully crafted your schedule with only afternoon classes. If you know you’re at your best with eight hours of sleep, set a bedtime that allows you to get that amount–and most importantly, stick to it. This might mean going to bed shortly after the kids and forgoing the nightly crash-and-Netflix-binge routine, but the benefits to your physical and mental health will quickly have you wondering why you didn’t try this sooner.
While all-night exam cram sessions are probably behind you, your 30s bring their own unique sleep challenges. Whether it’s a snoring partner, kids who won’t sleep through the night, or stress-induced anxiety due to work-related worries, the key to getting better sleep is identifying your biggest sleep hurdles and finding ways to overcome them. For example, creating a quiet sleep environment for yourself may mean asking your partner to try out snoring aids, or it may mean using earplugs or a white noise machine to drown out distracting sounds.
For parents, especially those with young children, it can seem almost impossible to get enough sleep when your child has an erratic sleep schedule. Check out this children’s sleep chart and consider talking to your pediatrician about ways to help your kids sleep through the night. It’s a lot easier to be your best parenting self when you’ve had a full night’s sleep. If work woes or other stressors keep you up at night, try journaling–keep a notebook and pen by your bed, and write down everything that’s on your mind when you’re trying to sleep. Often, just knowing that your problems are down on paper helps you realize that you can deal with them tomorrow.
If you’re suffering from frequent insomnia or other sleep disorders that may crop up in your 30s, such as restless legs syndrome or sleep apnea, talk to your physician about your options. For some people, meditation or therapy can make a world of difference in resolving sleep problems, while others may need sleep medication to get adequate rest.