How Much Sleep Do We Need?

Sleep is undoubtedly one of the most precious commodities anyone can claim. Despite this, most people don’t know many of the basics involved in their daily slumber. It is important to understand the fundamentals of sleep. It will allow you to have a healthier sleeping schedule and in turn, have a more well-tuned body and mind. In this article, we tackle one of the most important questions of them all – what is the right amount of sleep for you?

The Short Answer

As you can imagine, the answer to the question, how much sleep do you need isn’t a simple one. Much like how the human body is a complex entity, this topic is quite multifaceted as well. The short answer would be that the average adult (aged eighteen to sixty-four) requires between seven to nine hours of sleep.

The reason that this is not a cut and dry response is that there are numerous factors that go into determining just how many hours of slumber you require. Age is not the only thing that needs to be taken into consideration. Genetics and how well you sleep on a daily basis play huge roles as well.

The Long Answer

If you are searching for a more precise answer, then you are going to need to dive into this subject a little further. This means tackling a number of topics that fall under the vast category of sleep. To get a better idea of just how long you need to snooze for, here is what you should know:

Why Is It Important to Get Enough Sleep Each Night

after a good night sleep

With all of the things that you have to do in a day, it is easy to wonder whether you really need to sleep as much as everyone says you do. Is there any harm in getting less shut-eye than recommended? Well, it turns out that there are numerous reasons why your body and mind require a certain amount of rest:

First, let’s look at the physical benefits of getting the right amount of sleep. When you are asleep, your body works to repair itself. This includes repairing blood vessels and keeping your heart healthy. This helps you to avoid a number of unpleasant medical conditions.

If you lose out on sleep frequently, you may be at risk of experiencing strokes, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease.

However, by getting at least seven hours of sleep each day, you can reduce this risk considerably.

If you find yourself gaining weight or are unable to shed pounds as quickly as want to, too little sleep may be the cause. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body can mismanage your appetite hormones.

This means that there are higher levels of ghrelin, which is responsible for appetite stimulation, and lower levels of leptin which suppresses appetite.

When this happens you tend to consume an increased number of calories on a daily basis.

Getting a good night’s sleep could be the key to boosting your immune system as well. Your immune response requires you to get adequate amounts of sleep so that you can remain healthy. Therefore, by getting enough shut-eye, you could reduce the number of times that you get sick each year.

Sleep has a direct correlation with mental acuity as well. For instance, if you get the recommended amount of sleep each day, you will be able to focus better on the task at hand. You will also be able to retain information that you have learned throughout the day.

It will be easier for you to make decisions as well as solve problems when you are thoroughly rested.

On top of this, a lack of sleep can greatly affect your safety as well as the wellbeing of others around. Many accidents happen because people have reduced reflexes after breaking rest. Also, you are more likely to suffer from impaired judgment or make a greater number of mistakes.

When you miss out on your sleep, you may experience micro-sleep. This is when you unknowingly nod off for several seconds, sometimes in the middle of doing certain activities. Micro-sleep has been attributed as a major cause of road accidents.

People who don’t get the recommended hours of sleep can suffer from emotional challenges as well. Anger, irritability, and hostility are just a few side effects of losing out on sleep. It can also sometimes evolve into a general depression.

These individuals are also more likely to have negative reactions to situations and feel stressed.

Factors Affecting How Long You Should Sleep

As mentioned before, it is not easy to provide an average amount of hours of sleep for the entire population. This is because how much sleep that you require could be due to a number of different, individual factors. Here are what some of them are:

Age

sleeping young girl

It is quite obvious that the amount of time that you spend sleeping changes throughout your life. Babies and toddlers tend to require the greatest amount of sleep. Newborns will often only spend several hours awake for the first year of their life. Their sleep periods are often sporadic and it is only as they get older that they begin to have a more consolidated sleep.

Although adolescents don’t need as much sleep as younger children, they too require a considerable amount. The reason that babies, children, and teenagers need so much sleep is because of their mental and physical development. Longer periods of rest help them to develop better.

Once your body and mind are fully developed, you don’t actually require as much sleep as before. Instead, this state of rest is for recovery and rejuvenation purposes. On average, adults need an hour or two less than their teenage counterparts.

The elderly probably get the least amount of sleep among all of the age groups. However, they require just as much as the average adult. This is lack of sleep isn’t intentional but is due to their reduced ability to sleep for long periods of time.

Individuals within this age range find it difficult to fall asleep and tend to wake up more times during the night as well.

Lifestyle

The lifestyle that you lead can also have a considerable impact on how much sleep you need. For instance, people in certain careers could benefit from getting a little more sleep. Jobs that are incredibly stressful can have a lot of negative health effects. As a result, getting more shut-eye in these cases can help your body to heal better.

In the same vein, people with jobs that require decision-making, problem-solving, or are high-risk should also get their recommended amount of sleep. This will help them to remain alert, concentrate better, and make better decisions.

Genetics

Just how much sleep you are capable of getting every night may actually be written into your genetic code and predetermined.

Scientists have discovered that your genes on an individual and even cultural level will control just how many hours you spend napping. This is why some people are able to survive on less than six hours of sleep while others don’t feel completely rested unless they have gotten a solid eight hours.

Even severe cases of insomnia may be the fault of genes. Neuromedin is a stimulant gene that essentially tells your body that it doesn’t need as much sleep.

Diseases and Conditions

So, it has been determined that not getting enough of shut-eye can result in a wide array of diseases. However, what about the reverse situation? Can a particular preexisting medical condition or disease have an impact on how much sleep you get?

The answer to this is, yes. This is particularly common among those who suffer from chronic conditions. People who have been diagnosed with diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, kidney disease, thyroid problems, etc. have varied sleep patterns.

This is mostly because these diseases have side effects such as discomfort and breathing problems which cause the sufferers to continuously wake up. As such, they are unable to sleep for stretches of time.

Lack of Sleep

lack of sleep

It is inevitable that at one point or another, you find yourself on losing out on sleep. What many people try to do is to catch up on this lost sleep by sleeping for longer when they can. In certain cases, doing so can have the desired effect. As long as your sleeplessness is short-lived, you should be able to “catch up” on the sleep that you have had to give up on. However, for longer stretches of sleeplessness, your body may require months before going back to normal.

Average Amount of Sleep Needed by Age

 

AGE NO. OF HOURS OF SLEEP REQUIRED
Newborns (0 – 3 months) 14 – 17
Infants (4 – 11 months) 12 – 15
Toddlers ( 1 – 2 years) 11 – 14
Preschoolers (3 – 5 years) 10 – 13
School-Age Children ( 6 – 13 years) 9 – 11
Adolescents (14 – 17 years) 8 – 10
Adults ( 18 – 64 years) 7 – 9
Seniors (65+ years) 7 – 8

 

Recommended Amount of Sleep by Circumstance

The times that have been provided in the section above are based on the average person. As a result, they may not apply to certain individuals. Some people require less or more sleep depending on their circumstances or lifestyle. Take a look at the instances here:

During Pregnancy

Impotance of sleep for pregnant women

Pregnant women tend to need a few more hours of sleep, on average. This is particularly important during the first trimester. Within this period, women experience a considerable amount of fatigue as well as an increased metabolism. This additional sleep can be done in one long stretch or soon-to-be moms can take naps during the day.

It should be noted that during the first trimester, it may be difficult to get the sleep that you need. Various interruptions such as nausea, discomfort, and an increased need to urinate in the night may mean that you keep waking up.

This should ease somewhat by the second trimester but you will experience new challenges by the third trimester. This includes difficulties in breathing and restless leg syndrome.

For Athletes

man running

For many athletes, practices and events aren’t just physical endeavors but mental ones as well. This is why the average athlete requires a greater amount of rest. Their bodies need to heal and improve from the day’s work. Some additional snooze time can also help to improve the athlete’s performance and endurance as well.

Typically athletes need around 8 to 10 hours of sleep. However, this can vary, depending on how old you are. A good rule of thumb to follow is to consider how much the average person in your age group needs to sleep.

You can then add about two hours to this number to arrive at just how many hours you should be sleeping.

For Bodybuilders

working out

The answer to the question how much sleep do bodybuilders need is not so easy to answer. This is because while bodybuilding does require a lot of physical activity, performance isn’t always the main goal. Rather, these individuals are concerned with gaining muscle and getting bigger.

Most bodybuilders need at least eight hours of sleep a day, depending on just how much they have lifted or worked out for that day. However, there are other things that need to be factored in such as metabolism. This is why it is often best to test out how much of consolidated sleep is best for you.

When Sick

lying sick in bed

One of the main reasons that your body requires sleep is because it is during this period that your cells, tissues, and muscles heal. This is why getting enough of sleep while you are sick is incredibly important. There isn’t really a set period amount of time to sleep when you have the flu or a cold. Instead, you should just rest whenever you feel tired or sleepy.

Sleep and restfulness are particularly important with conditions such as infectious mononucleosis. Since you are more likely to feel fatigued and drowsy with this illness, it is imperative that you get as much sleep as you can. This is particularly true in the initial stage of the illness.

Of course, even simpler diseases such as the common cold can be downgraded, if you get enough of sleep. If you increase the number of hours that you sleep for a short while, you may find it easier to beat your cold or even the flu.

Are You Sleeping Enough?

One of the most asked questions when it comes to sleep is whether or not you are getting enough of sleep on a daily basis. Well, if you are wondering if your hectic schedule and sleepless nights are finally catching up to you, there are symptoms that you should look out for:

Moodiness

One of the first things that you may notice if you haven’t slept enough is that your emotions are harder to manage. You are more likely to feel irritable and experience negative emotions. It will also be quite difficult for you to manage stress or any type of challenges. A lack of sleep can also cause anxiety.

Weight Gain

The other thing that you may observe is that you are gaining weight at a faster rate than normal. This could be the result of two things. First, when you are tired because you haven’t slept well, you are more likely to eat junk food. Your decision-making is impaired and you will not make healthy decisions.

There is also the fact that too little sleep makes you worn-out, preventing you from being active or getting any exercise.

Poor Memory

Do you feel like that you are unable to remember even the smallest details? If so, a lack of sleep could be to blame. The key to your memory is the ability to focus on details or a task. This helps to reinforce the thought and makes it easier for you to recall later. Sleeplessness, however, impairs your ability to concentrate well and therefore, your memory as well.

Motor Skill Problems

If you seem to be tripping more than often or are having trouble with your coordination, you may need to get more sleep. Since you are not concentrating as well and your reaction time is compromised, you may experience a higher number of accidents.

Frequent Illness

If you keep getting sick and it isn’t even flu season, your sleep schedule may be to blame. If you aren’t getting the right amount of sleep, your immune system will be directly and negatively affected. This means that it will be unable to protect your body from foreign disease-causing agents as effectively as it should.

Dozing Off

Dozed off while studying

Although this may be the most obvious indicator of not getting enough sleep, it isn’t something that many people notice. It is because of these naps often last seconds and most individuals aren’t even aware that they have taken place. Unfortunately, this is quite a common occurrence among tired drivers. If you feel like you are spacing out for short periods of time, you may actually be experiencing micro-sleep.

Are You Sleeping Too Much?

As it is often said, too much of a good thing can be bad. This is true in the case of sleep as well. While too little sleep can be harmful, too much sleep can be just as hazardous. You can develop heart disease, diabetes, and may even be at risk for a shorter lifespan if you sleep ten or more hours a day.

In general, if you are getting more than nine hours of sleep without physical exertion, then your sleeping schedule may be excessive.

Usually, when it comes to oversleeping, you have to take into consideration just how many hours you have spent dozing for. This is because there are many similarities in the side effects of both under and oversleeping. Weight gain, difficulty concentrating, negative emotions, and even feelings of tiredness are all things that you experience with ten or more hours of sleep each day.

According to research, your body reacts in a similar manner whether you are getting too much or too little sleep.

Clearly, it is all about finding that perfect sleep schedule for you. This is why it is best to sleep no more than eight hours a day unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Sleep Quality

There are many different reasons why you may not be getting as much sleep as you need. While, sometimes, it is because you have to or choose to stay up, there are often other factors involved. For instance, the following elements can disrupt your sleep considerably:

Your Environment

Sound pollution and light pollution may be preventing you from sleeping soundly. This is particularly common in big cities when there are traffic noises and bright billboards around every corner. This can make it difficult for you to fall asleep and stay asleep without being disturbed.

If you are experiencing this, there are certain steps you can take.

Blackout curtains will prevent unwanted light from streaming in while earplugs can help to muffle loud sounds.

Sleep Apnea

It is estimated that a large percentage of the population is affected by sleep apnea, with more men than women suffering from this condition. While there are different types of sleep apnea, the identifying element is that people stop and start breathing while they sleep. The most concerning thing about this condition is that it is largely undiagnosed.

This is because if you tend to sleep alone, it can be difficult to know that you have a problem. However, if you wake up unable to breathe or feel unrested after a full night’s sleep, you may have sleep apnea.

Snoring

snoring

When most people think about how snoring affects sleep, they think of the person who has to listen to the noise all night long. Well, the snorer may also be at risk from poor sleep quality as well. Snoring is due to disruptions in your breathing. So, even if you get the recommended hours of sleep, you may not feel rested as your sleep was disturbed.

Sleeping Patterns

These days, a monophasic sleeping pattern is what is considered to be normal. This is when you get around eight hours of sleep at one stretch, usually in the night. Not everyone subscribes to this, however. Some people prefer a biphasic sleeping pattern instead. This is defined by two sleeping periods within the span of one day. Of course, each phase is shorter than a monophasic pattern.

Then, there is a monophasic sleeping tendency. This is when people will nap three to six times a day, often for no longer than an hour at a time.

It is difficult to say which pattern is best because it all depends on the individual. Each person responds differently to each sleeping pattern. Therefore, what may be right for one person may not work for someone else.

FAQ

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions regarding sleep:

1.      I sleep just two hours a day and I feel fine. Why do I need to sleep more?

It is true that some people can function on very little sleep. While this may work for a short period of time, however, it is not a healthy habit to maintain. This is because there is so much that goes on in your body and brain while you sleep – most of it isn’t fully understood yet. Needless to say, you need to get at least seven hours of sleep a day.

If not, you may be at risk of developing of many diseases, including dementia and suffer from cognitive impairment, depression, anxiety, and more.

Not getting enough of sleep on a regular basis can shorten your lifespan considerably as well.

  1. I sleep 9 hours and I still don’t feel rested. What do I do?

There are a few reasons that you may still be feeling tired after getting nine hours of sleep. It is quite likely that you are getting too much of sleep which can actually make you feel tired and unrested. To overcome this, you should consider shortening your sleeping period to seven to eight hours instead.

The other reason that you may not be feeling rested is because your sleep is getting interrupted. Snoring, breathing problems, and other medical conditions could be causing broken or poor sleep. You should address any medical conditions that you may have to help you snooze better.

3.      How can I find out how much I should be sleeping every day?

Each person needs a different amount of sleep. Your age, activity levels, metabolism, and even genes will determine how much shut-eye you should get. So, how can you figure out how much is right for you? Well, a good starting point is finding out how much you should be sleeping at your current age.

If you are an athlete or incredibly active, you may want to add an hour or two to that number. Try this sleeping schedule for a while to see how you feel. If you don’t feel rested, you can try cutting down or increasing the number by an hour.

It is important to remember that you should sleep for between seven and nine hours a day, regardless of other problems.

4.      How can I catch up on lost sleep?

It is quite common to miss out on the recommended amount of sleep every now and then. Some people attempt to make up for this loss by increasing the number of hours that they sleep in the following days. This only works to a certain extent, however. For instance, you can only truly “catch up” on your sleep if you attempt to do so no more than two days after breaking rest. A later period may simply not work.

You can try to sleep for an hour or two on the following days to help you get your schedule back on track. You should bear in mind that this doesn’t work for a chronic lack of sleep.

5.      Could I have a sleep disorder?

Most sleep-related issues are often mild and can be easily fixed by changing your lifestyle, diet, or your sleeping schedule. Sometimes, however, the problem may be far more serious. If you find that your sleep problems persist for weeks, there could be a medical reason.

Also, if you are experiencing breathing problems at night or find yourself waking up at intervals, this too could be a symptom. Another common issue is feeling unrested during the day and finding it difficult to stay awake. It is important to get a medical opinion to see what is causing you to lose sleep.

These are all of the various aspects that go into determining how much sleep human beings need. Hopefully, this helps to answer any questions you may have.

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