Jan 13, 2022

How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?

“New year, new me?” You've increased your daily water intake. You got back into a good workout plan. Takeout 5+ nights a week is so 2021, as you are now cooking at home more. 2022 is your year for optimal health and wellness!

But are you getting enough (quality) sleep?

Sleep plays a significant role in our physical, mental, and emotional help. However, the CDC reports that 1 in 3 adults aren't getting adequate zzzs. 

Is your sleep health affecting your overall well-being? We put together this guide to help you  figure out how much sleep you need, the health risks that come with lack of sleep, and healthy sleep tips to ensure you are getting the right amount of sleep and getting the right kind of sleep. 

Why is sleep so important?

In an age where we are constantly moving and connected (thanks to technology), sleep is often viewed as a luxury rather than a necessity. We find ourselves training our bodies to function on less sleep. Hint: not good!

Research shows that getting enough quality sleep for the right amount of time can help protect your mental health, physical health, and quality of life. 

Some of the ways sleep help us are:

  • Supports healthy brain function 

  • Maintains physical health

  • Supports mental function (alertness, memory consolidation, and mood regulation)

Sleep in children and teens also supports their growth and development.

Risk factors that affect sleep

The human body is pretty incredible how it's wired to regulate our almost continuous sleep cycles and wakefulness. However, various internal and external factors can dramatically impact the balance of this sleep-wake system.

Some risk factors that affect our sleep quality and duration are: 

  • Age- as we get older, the amount of sleep we obtain can be more fragmented and decrease. 

  • Sleep Disorders- Conditions such as insomnia, narcolepsy, and sleep apnea alter sleep.

  • Medical conditions-Those who suffer from chronic pain, obesity, diabetes, etc., may find they have sleep troubles. 

  • Medications- Certain medications for other health conditions, such as stimulants (Adderall), cold medicines and decongestants, steroids, can cause insomnia and other sleep issues. 

  • Food and drinks- Studies show that poor quality, added sugar, fatty, and ultra-processed carbohydrates, such as pasta, sweets, and drinks packed with sugar and caffeine contribute to poor sleep quality.

Signs and symptoms that you aren't getting enough sleep

The way you feel when awake depends heavily on what happens while you're sleeping. So one clear sign you aren't getting the right amount of sleep is feeling fatigued, sluggish, or tired during the day. 

Other signs your sleep health isn't where it should be, include:

  • Have difficulty focusing/remembering things

  • Decrease in sex drive

  • Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning

  • Frequently yawning

  • Difficulty staying awake in meetings, while driving, after a heavy meal, etc

  • Having to take a nap during the day

  • Falling asleep on the couch in the evening

  • Falling asleep quickly once getting into bed

  • Increased irritability 

  • Mood changes (depression, anxiety, stress, paranoia, or suicidal thoughts)

If you feel like you may harm yourself or others, please call 911 immediately.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should make an appointment to see your physician. 

Effects on the body from sleep deprivation 

Sleep deficiency can cause issues instantly and over time. Issues can involve how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.

If you continue to go without adequate sleep, you may see more long-term and severe health problems, such as:

  • High blood pressure

  • Diabetes

  • Heart attack

  • Heart failure

  • Stroke

  • Obesity

  • Depression

  • Impaired immunity

  • Decreased sex drive

Over time, chronic sleep deprivation can also impact your appearance. Research shows a link between lack of sleep and increased stress hormone cortisol, which breaks down collagen that keeps our skin smooth. As a result, those who aren't getting good sleep often have premature wrinkling and dark circles under their eyes. They don't call it beauty sleep for nothing!

How much sleep should I be getting?

Have you ever heard of needing 8 hours of sleep a night? 

Sleep amounts are not one-size-fits-all. Our sleep needs change as we 

age. The National Sleep Foundation recommends:

Newborn (0-3 months old)- 14-17 hours

Infant (4-11 months old)- 12-15 hours

Toddler (1-2 years old)- 11-14 hours

Preschool (3-5 years old)- 10-13 hours

School-age(6-13 years old)- 9-11 hours

Teen(14-17 years old)- 8-10 hours

Young Adult(18-25 years old)-7-9 hours

Adult(26-64 years old)- 7-9 hours

Older Adult(65 or more years old)-7-8 hours

These suggestions should serve as a baseline as the ideal amount of sleep may vary from person to person. Your best friend might be good with 8 hours, but you need 10 to feel rejuvenated. 

When it comes to how much sleep you need, consider your day-to-day activity level, typical sleep patterns, and overall health. The National Sleep Foundation recommends answering these questions to understand your sleep needs better. 

Some things to consider:

  • How many hours of sleep do you need to feel the most productive, healthy, and happy? 

  • What health concerns do you currently have? Are you at higher risk for any diseases?

  • Does your day-to-day require a lot of high-energy tasks? 

  • Do your daily activities require alertness to do them safely?

  • Are you currently experiencing or have a history of sleeping problems?

  • Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day? If so, how much?

Improve your sleep quality

As mentioned earlier, your sleep quality is just as important as the amount of sleep you get. 

Here are some tips to significantly improve your sleep:

  • Make sleep a priority.

  • Keep electronic devices (that includes your smartphone!) in another room.

  • Create a bedtime routine that you can stick to 

  • Eliminate or limit food or beverages that cause sleep troubles for your body (this may include cutting out that 2 PM Starbucks run)

  • Remember, your bed is for sleep. Try not to work or watch TV in bed. 

  • Get to the root of health conditions that might be causing sleep issues.

  • Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.

  • Spend the hour before bedtime doing something to wind down (i.e., read, take a bath, meditate, etc.) 

  • Maintain a sleep journal/diary to track sleep issues

  • Be sure your sleep environment is optimal- is your mattress keeping you up? Is it too hot or cold in your room? Do you need to block out more light?

  • Talk to your doctor; they may refer you to complete a sleep study or prescribe a sleep aid, like Ambien or Lunesta*

*Never start any sleep medication or supplement, prescription or over-the-counter, without consulting your doctor first. 

Final thoughts

Overall, most adults should aim for 7–9 hours of sleep every night. However, you should consider your current health and well-being and listen to your body. If you think there might be an underlying issue of needing more or less, see your doctor as soon as you can. 

Either way, sleep is vital in our current and future health. While life today may seem like it's always moving at a rapid speed, it's critical to make sleep a priority in our life and the life of our loved ones.  

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