Can you live if you don’t drink, don’t eat, don’t breathe? The answer is NO. Similarly, can you live if you don’t sleep? Sleep is an essential part of your life and according to your age and lifestyle, the amount of sleep you need can be different. Sleep is not just going to bed and closing your eyes, in what state your mind and body rest during sleep is equally important. At one point in our life, we all wonder how much do I need to sleep?
How much do I need to Sleep TOC
Common questions related to Sleep
- Are you frustrated for not getting enough sleep? Do you crave a sound sleep?
- Have you been sleeping too much or too less and wondering how much sleep do you need actually?
- Are you facing constant work and life challenges that are further disrupting your sleep?
- Are you trying to figure out the specific amount of sleep you need to function at your best?
- Do you think you still feel tired after getting what should be considered enough?
- Do you rely on caffeine to keep yourself going throughout the day?
- Do you struggle to stick to a sleeping schedule? But what is the best time to go to bed based on your wake time and natural sleep cycles?
- Are you trying to catch up on sleep during weekends as you were sleep-deprived during the week?
- Do you feel fresh and alert when you wake up? Do you experience drowsy most of the time?
- Do you feel fresh and all healthy to start your day in a happy mood?
- Can’t stop yawning? Have trouble holding your head up? Have trouble keeping your eyes focused?
Have you ever realized we spend almost around a third of our lives sleeping?
Sleep is a basic human need. In fact, sleep is as important as food for us to survive. It’s as important to your physical and mental health—as vital to good health as eating healthy foods or getting enough exercise. Sleep has many other roles than just giving time for your body and mind to rest.
You may not realize it, but getting the amount of sleep you need means you can function at your best. However, the quality of sleep matters just as much as quantity. But, in today’s fast-paced world when life gets busy, a sound good night’s sleep has become something of an indulgence. It’s fallen down our list of priorities behind work deadlines, night shifts, multiple jobs, household chores, social life, and entertainment.
Some people think they are adapting to being awake more, but are performing at a lower level. They will not be able to realize as the functional decline is very slow and it takes time to get noticed. Training the body to sleep less is not a long-term viable option.
Importance of Sleep
- It maintains critical body functions
- It helps regulate the release of hormones that control appetite, metabolism, growth, and healing
- It maintains the circadian rhythm or internal clock
- It helps to regulate emotions and mood
- It repairs body cells and rebuilds muscles tissues worn down during the day
- It removes toxins in the brain that accumulate while being awake
- It boosts brain function to process new information, builds concentration and productivity
- It reduces the risk to develop heart-related diseases and stroke
- It helps manage weight and Body Mass Index (BMI)
- It helps maintain healthy immune system function
- It lowers your risk for chronic health conditions (diabetes/high blood pressure)
- It improves athletic performance, reaction time, and speed
- It helps to think clearly, react normally and create new memories.
- It lowers the risk for depression and anxiety
- It improves libido and sexual function
With so many vital processes in the human body connected to sleep, it’s evident why sound sleep can reap long-term health rewards. Without sleep, our bodies can’t function correctly, how they should.
How Much do I need to sleep?
The amount of sleep you need changes throughout your lifetime—even within the same age group. Each one of us has a different body and different lifestyle and that is why there is no one-size-fits-all approach to sleep as well. And as per the different needs and preferences of each one of us individual sleep requirements are no different.
However, recommended sleep guidelines offer a start point to determine the ideal amount of sleep for optimal health.
Sleep guidelines by age groups
- Older adults (65+): 7–8 hours
- Adults (18–64 years): 7–9 hours
- Teenagers (14–17 years): 8–10 hours
- School children (6–13 years): 9–11 hours
- Pre-schoolers (3–5 years): 10–13 hours (including naps)
- Toddlers (children aged 1–2 years): 11–14 hours (including naps)
- Infants (age group 4–12 months): 12–15 hours (including naps)
- New-borns (0–3 months): 14–17 hours
The comprehensive result of research related to sleep suggests that for young adults with average daily work, 7–9 hours is an appropriate amount. More sleep isn’t always better. As you get older, you need less sleep, as a general rule, and typically stabilizes around the age of 20. Quality is equally important as quantity! And that’s why it is not just the hours spent sleeping that can matter, but also the consistency of sleeping patterns. However, sleep shouldn’t be a luxury.
Nevertheless, some people might need more or less sleep than is generally recommended, depending on Various environmental, behavioral, and medical factors including genetic makeup and sleep quality
Consequences of Sleep Deprivation
Research has found evidence to suggest sleep deprivation can cause a range of mental and physical problems. Without enough sleep, the body has a hard time functioning properly. We are vulnerable to the following problems when the body doesn’t get enough sleep:
- Memory problems
- Feelings of depression and anxiety
- Mood swings
- Lack of motivation
- Irritability and crankiness
- Fatigue and headache
- Slower reaction times
- Risk of injury (risk of accidents)
- Weak immune system (higher chances of getting sick)
- Prone to serious health conditions (high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack)
- A lower sex-drive
- Wrinkled skin and dark circles under eyes
- Obesity, overeating, and weight gain
- Trouble concentrating, solving problems, and controlling emotions
- Poor decision-making ability and less productivity
- Hallucinations and drowsiness
- Difficulty coping with stress
- Early signs of aging
This can result in serious problems at work and home.
Tips for Better Sleep Habits
Getting quality sleep in today’s world can be a challenge, with endless distractions and the noise of life happening around you. Good sleep is about establishing good health habits that can help you sleep better and longer. However, in our neon-lit, bustling, and noisy lives, getting sound sleep is more challenging than we might like.
To improve your sleep quality and quantity, consider the following sleep hygiene practices –
- Establish a regular sleep routine (at least 7-8 hours for sleeping)
- Create a calming bedtime routine (like a hot bath, reading, soothing music, meditation)
- Create a comfortable restful bedroom environment
- Minimize caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine
- Pay attention to what you eat or drink before bedtime
- Drown out sound and light using curtains, earplugs, window treatments
- Say no to night shifts (for work or personal entertainment)
- Exercise daily during the day and relaxing exercise before bed (like yoga, meditation)
- Avoid daytime very short naps that may reduce your nighttime sleepiness
- Keep pets away from your bedroom to avoid sleep disruptions
- Listen to your body’s sleep rhythm through self-observation
- Calculate how much you actually sleep each time
- Keep the bedroom quiet, dark, and calm with comfortable night wears
- Reduce your use of electronics screentime just before bed (phone, laptops, iPad)
- Try to avoid tension before sleeping (like heated discussions)
- Keep to the same sleeping and waking times (at weekends as well)
- Take help from high tech gadgets (like Apply watch, Fitbit, Oura Ring) to track the quality of sleep for peak performance
- Use nasal strips to reduce snoring
- Try to sort out and resolve your worries or daily concerns before bedtime
- Avoid catching up sleep on weekends
- Manage your stress to ease anxiety
While you might not be able to control the factors that interfere with your sleep, however, you can adopt habits that encourage better sleep.
The Bottom Line
No matter who you are and what you do, sleep is essential for everyone’s health. Your social relations and careers won’t be worth enjoying if you sacrifice sleep.
Make getting enough each night a high priority. Sleep keeps us healthy and functioning well. Sleep gives you undisturbed rest and lets the body and brain repair, restore, and reenergize. Going to sleep with a stressed mind, even if you sleep for more than 7-8 hours is not enough, but also on sleeping well enough.
Sleep needs vary from person to person and even for an individual it can be affected by several factors. However, for most adults, 7–9 hours per night is the ideal amount. People who sleep for less than 6 hours each night might be trained to the effects of sleep deprivation, but this does not mean that their body needs any less sleep.
Some intermittent nights of poor or inadequate sleep generally won’t show any serious impact on your health. But sleep deprivation can have short-term and long-term physical, emotional, and cognitive health impacts. Long-term sleep deprivation can take a more severe toll on your physical health and can bring on noticeable physical effects and raise the chances of developing chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. If you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, consider consulting a doctor for any underlying condition.
To make the most out of bedtime, create good habits, such as minimizing your caffeine and alcohol intake, following a regular sleep schedule, and creating a comfortable sleeping environment.
All we can do is keep making an effort to give sleep the space that it needs.