How Much Sleep You Really Need (and How to Get It!)

How Much Sleep You Really Need (and How to Get It!)

If you’re struggling with meeting the demands of a crazy schedule, missing out on sleep might seem like your only option for actually having time to get everything done. But, before you stay up into the early morning hours working on that project, you should know the facts about missing out on quality sack time. The truth is that even small amounts of sleep loss can take a serious toll on your health and happiness, with symptoms ranging from irritability to an increased risk of heart disease. Yikes! If you’re looking to stay energized and productive while you fight off high levels of stress, getting a good night’s rest is crucial. Which is why we want to talk about getting the right amount of sleep for you, each and every night. Let’s get you started on the path to a better life while you’re awake by taking a look at just how essential the time you spend asleep really is to your sanity and well-being...

Why is Sleep Important?

If someone was to ask you what played the biggest role in keeping you healthy, you’d probably say eating well and exercising. But the truth is that sleep is more vital than food when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Getting quality sleep directly impacts your physical and emotional wellness. Your immune system, productivity and creativity, mental and heart health, and even your weight are all affected by how much sleep you’re getting each night. In fact, no other activity we take part in has a greater impact with such little effort! But sleep isn’t just about you resting your body, it’s about allowing the biological systems that keep you running a chance to recharge. Without enough sleep, you won’t be able to work and play, communicate and learn, or fight off illnesses. And if you’re regularly skimping out on the “maintenance” that your body undergoes during sleep, you could be headed for some serious trouble. Luckily for us, we don’t have to choose between maximum productivity and optimal health. All it takes is a little bit of effort and planning ahead to make sure you’re sleeping long enough each night to keep your energy and efficiency levels at an all-time high.

Sleep Facts vs. Fiction

Like many of us, you’ve probably heard (and even bought into) some of the more common sleep myths over the years. We’re going to address some of them right now, to help ease your mind about the ability to balance sleep and getting things done. Fiction: Losing out on an hour of sleep won’t have an impact on your ability to function. Fact: Even if you don’t seem to notice a difference the next day, just an hour less of sleep can affect your ability to focus and react, as well as compromising your immune system and cardiovascular health. Fiction: Our bodies adjust quickly to changes in sleep schedules. Fact: As humans, we’re programmed to sleep at night, and we have a difficult time making adjustments to the biological clock that controls our sleep cues. Most of us will need more than a week to adapt to a new sleep schedule due to travel or making a switch to the night shift. Fiction: You can catch up on lost sleep by sleeping in on the weekends. Fact: If you’re losing sleep regularly during the week by staying up late to get more done, you’re accruing a “sleep debt” that can never fully be paid back. Not only that, you’re creating problems with your sleep-wake cycle for the upcoming week, which will most likely make it harder to get up when the weekend is over.

How Long Should You Be Sleeping?

Now that you know some of the most important sleep facts, and just how much of an impact it can have on your physical and mental health, let’s talk about how much sleep you need to flourish. The first thing you need to know is there’s a big difference between how much sleep you can squeak by with and how much you need to operate at your peak. The National Institute of Health has found that the average American adult gets around 6 hours of sleep each night, much less than the recommended 7 to 9 hours per night. With as much as you have to get done, you’re probably thinking that doesn’t sound too bad, right? But the truth is you could be creating a recipe for disaster by embarking on the unhealthy journey that is chronic sleep deprivation. Sure, you might be able to minimally function on 6 hours of sleep at night, but the fact of the matter is you’d feel much better by getting a couple of extra hours in Dreamland, and you’d end up getting more done, to boot! Still, think that 6 hours of sleep per night is enough for the average adult (yourself included)? Unless you carry a very rare gene that allows you to thrive on less sleep, chances are you fall into the 97% of the population that needs more time in bed.

Sleep Needs by Age

Of course, not everyone is the same when it comes to sleep requirements, and this is especially true when it comes to children and the elderly. Let’s take a look at how much time you need to spend asleep each night, at every stage of life. Newborn to 3 Months: 14-17 hours 4 to 11 Months: 12-15 hours 1 to 2 Years: 11-14 hours 3 to 5 Years: 10-13 hours 6 to 13 Years: 9-11 hours 14 to 17 Years: 8-10 hours 18 to 64 Years: 7-9 hours 65 Years and Older: 7-8 hours

How to Tell If You're Getting Enough Sleep

After everything you’ve read so far, it might seem as if knowing whether or not you’re getting enough sleep is pretty cut and dry. If you’re getting less than 8 hours of sleep per night, you’re sleep deprived, simple as that, right? But remember that it’s quality and not just quantity that counts when it comes to your slumber, and the symptoms of sleep deprivation can be much more subtle than falling asleep during your afternoon meeting. You could be suffering from a lack of sleep and writing it off as something else, especially if you’re getting the recommended amount of sleep time each night, but you’re having issues with getting the right kind of rest.

Some Tell-Tale Signs of Sleep Deprivation

If you find yourself struggling to make it through the day without feeling as if you could fall flat on your face, you should take a look at the following signs of sleep deprivation to figure out if you need to make some changes in your nightly routine for better sleep.
  • You need a heavy-duty alarm to wake up on time
  • The snooze button is your best friend and worst enemy
  • You have to drag yourself out of bed
  • Afternoons pass by in a sluggish fog
  • Heavy meals or driving makes you groggy
  • You feel like you need a nap multiple times a day
  • You fall asleep when watching TV or relaxing
The bottom line here is if you’re not feeling as if you’re firing on all cylinders throughout your days, it’s most likely time to reevaluate your sleep needs and think about changing things up when it comes to your sleep regimen.

How Sleep Deprivation Impacts You

Not getting enough quality sleep at night can have some pretty scary effects, some of which go far beyond the irritation of daytime drowsiness. Let’s look into how sleep deprivation can impact you in ways both large and small.

Some of the Effects of Sleep Loss

  • Feelings of lethargy and lack of motivation
  • Increased risk of moodiness and depression
  • Inability to concentrate and learn new skills
  • Short-term memory loss and lack of creativity
  • Difficulty dealing with stress and managing emotions
  • Frequent illnesses and infections due to weakened immunity
  • Higher risk of accidents due to impaired motor skills
  • Increased chance of stroke, diabetes, and certain cancers

Sleep Deprivation and Your Waistline

If you’ve ever noticed how you crave sugary snacks for a quick pick-me-up when you’re running short on sleep, you shouldn’t be surprised that there’s a direct link between sleep loss and weight gain, even if you’re otherwise trying to live a healthy lifestyle. This is due to the chaos that sleep deprivation creates with the two hormones that control your appetite. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells you when you’re hungry, while leptin is the one that makes you feel full. When you don’t get enough sleep, your levels of ghrelin go up, and less leptin is produced, meaning that you want to eat more often than normal, and it takes longer to feel satiated than it would if you weren’t sleep deprived.

How to Get the Quality Sleep You Need

After learning just how crucial sleep is to every aspect of your life, you’re probably more than ready to start catching some Z's to help you increase your productivity levels, feel mentally sharper, and promote optimal overall health. But how can you sleep better on a crazy schedule that doesn’t seem to have any wiggle room? Take a look at some of these simple tips for awesome sleep and do a bit of experimentation to see which ones work best for you... Get Some Stress Relief: If you’re having trouble balancing work, family, and the other stressors that life throws your way, consider developing a mediation or progressive relaxation routine to help manage your stress levels. Stick to a Sleep Schedule: Help your body’s natural clock by going to bed and waking up at the same times each and every day, including on the weekends. Eat and Drink Smart: Keep sleep in mind during your evening meals! Certain food and drinks can help you sleep, while others (like caffeine, alcohol, and sugar) can create serious sleep disturbances. Get Physical: Just 30 minutes of exercise can help you to reduce the symptoms of some common sleep disorders and help you get better rest. Be sure to get your chosen physical activity in well before bedtime though, or you might have trouble falling asleep. Ditch the Distractions: Your evenings should be about unwinding and sending signals to your mind and body that it’s almost time for slumber. Avoid electronic devices and try a relaxing activity like reading or taking a warm bath to prep yourself for sleep. Enhance Your Sleep Environment: Your bedroom should be a haven for sleep that’s cool, dark, and quiet. If you want the highest quality of rest, avoid the temptation to bring work into your room, and keep it a place of peace. Put Worries to Bed: If you find yourself lying awake at night with a racing mind, try putting your worries to the side by writing them down before bed. This sends a signal to your mind that the problem is under control and allows you to tackle it in the morning. Rule Out Medical Causes: If you’ve tried a plethora of techniques for better sleep and you’re still not getting the rest you need, your next stop should be your doctor’s office, where you can discuss certain medications or health issues that could be to blame for your lack of sleep.

Still Having Trouble Getting to Sleep?

Now that you’ve learned how important sleep is to your health and figured out just how much sleep you need to thrive, you might want to take a look at these related articles for even more helpful info on how to find happiness through sweet dreams. 20 Simple Tips for Restful Nights Discover the Real Cost of Better Sleep 7 Easy Steps to Awesome Slumber
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