How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?
Written by: Brandi Monasco
According to the CDC, a whopping one third of American adults aren’t getting enough sleep. They recommend that adults aged 18-60 get a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night. Falling short of that can lead to a whole lot higher of a risk of developing chronic conditions, such as diabetes, mental distress, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and more.
Needless to say, getting enough good shut-eye is essential for our health and well-being.
But different people have different needs, is seven hours of sleep really the optimal for everyone?
Too much sleep isn’t healthy either. Oversleeping is linked to depression and anxiety, as well as increased risk of diabetes and obesity. It can also cause back pain and headaches.
For the best health and happiness, what is the ideal number of sleep hours?
That depends entirely on your age and you as an individual. Despite recommended hours of sleep, if you feel your best at 7.5 hours of sleep versus 8 hours, stick with what works best for you. But in general, sleep needs are reflexively based on age.
Scientists at the American National Institute of Health have done a lot of research on sleep and they’ve determined that how healthy people sleep when they have an unlimited opportunity to sleep is an accurate determination of the body’s needs.
Newborns sleep between 16 and 18 hours a day. The hours drop to 11-12 hours a night by the time the child reaches preschool and school-aged children and adolescents sleep about 10 hours a night.
When hormonal changes start occurring in the body in the adolescent years, teenagers need between 9 and 10 hours of sleep. However, because of the early morning start of high schools and night-owl tendencies of the newly acquired biological clocks, many teenagers are sleeping under 8 hours a night and are suffering because of this.
By adulthood, when our bodies are mostly reaching a hormonal and growth equilibrium, it’s recommended that we sleep 7-8 hours a night to avoid sleep-related problems and maintain enough energy throughout the day.
For adults, quality matters as much as quantity.
The NIH has also found that adults have a much harder time reaching deeper stages of sleep and are more likely to be disturbed or woken up from their sleep. Without reaching these deep stages and being able to spend enough time in them, sleep isn’t restful.
Common complaints in all age ranges of adults that indicate a lack of restful sleep are, “difficulty falling asleep,” “early morning awakenings,” “frequent and long awakenings during the night,” “daytime sleepiness” and “a lack of refreshing sleep.”
These complaints occur more frequently as people age. Restlessness during sleep hours can be as bad as not sleeping at all.
If you think you may be experiencing poor-quality sleep, there are ways to help ease the side effects and to try to combat the underlying problems causing the restlessness during sleep.
Short naps (under an hour) in the early afternoon can help make up for some of the problems that lack of sleep can cause. The Mayo Clinic also suggests these simple tips that can really help improve your quality of sleep:
- Keep a regular bedtime ritual and schedule.
- Don’t go to bed hungry or stuffed full.
- Avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol for at least a few hours before bedtime.
- Your bedroom should be cool, dark and quiet.
- Having at least some physical activity during the day helps.
Also, find ways to manage your stress throughout the day so it doesn’t keep you tossing and turning at night. Meditating, journaling, breathing exercises, etc. are all great methods to try. Find what works best for you.
When all else fails and lifestyle changes aren’t doing enough to fix your sleep, it’s time to consult a doctor. Sleep is vital to your health and nothing feels as good as waking up after a night of restful, rejuvenating sleep!
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Brandi Monasco is a freelance writer, graphic designer and social media manager from Texas. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Arts and has recently found a new love for health and nutrition.
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