We’ve all experienced the effects of too little sleep. You’re irritable, drowsy, and it’s difficult to concentrate. You may try to fight this with caffeine or exercise, but eventually sleepiness takes its toll. At the other end of the spectrum, you can get too much sleep.
Have you ever laid down for a quick nap, then woke up many many hours later? Have you ever slept in several hours past your usual wake up time? If so, you probably know how disorienting that can be.
The amount of sleep you get, and the quality of that sleep is a major factor in your well-being. You may spend a full third of your life sleeping, and one question always remains prevalent. How much sleep should you get each day?
As it turns out, that depends. Our sleep needs can change dramatically over the years. It’s impacted by age, activity levels, and our health. Quality of sleep is also a factor. If we don’t get enough sleep, and that sleep isn’t restorative, we never feel well-rested or refreshed.
Sleep Cycle Disturbances
Because of work and other life demands, we often cause or sleep cycles to be disturbed. We use alarm clocks rather than waking up naturally. We drink coffee, caffeinated sodas, and super-caffeinated energy drinks. We use electronic devices and artificial lighting which includes blue led. All of these things get in the way of our natural circadian rhythm.
Other Sources of Sleep Disturbance
Unfortunately, even if we could eliminate sleep cycle disturbances entirely, there are other factors that could lead to poor quality sleep. These include:
- Alcohol Consumption
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Uncomfortable Bedding
- Snoring (Your or Your Partner)
- Stress And Anxiety
Recommended Sleep Guidelines
The precise amount of sleep you need depends. However, there are some guidelines. The Center For Disease Control (CDC) has established some recommendations. These are:
- Newborns – 14 to 17 hours daily
- Infants – 12 to 16 hours daily
- Toddlers – 11 to 14 hours daily
- Preschoolers – 10 to 13 hours daily
- Grade Schoolers – 9 to 12 hours daily
- Teenagers – 8 to 10 hours daily
- Adults – 7 or more hours daily
Those are some pretty big numbers for newborns, infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. However, that includes naps as well as overnight sleep.
In their report, the CDC is very careful to emphasize that the amount of sleep is not the only factor. Quality of sleep matters just as much. If someone is waking up frequently, or never getting into a deep sleep, they won’t feel rested. In fact, somebody could seemingly sleep more than their fair share, but still feel constantly fatigued.
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I Feel Fine After Just a Few Hours of Rest!
There are some people who regularly get less than the recommended amount of sleep, and who claim they suffer from no ill effects. These folks are very likely being negatively impacted by their lack of sleep. They just may not be aware of the effect it has on them. While there are a few rare cases of people who truly don’t need much sleep, most of us lose cognitive function, become less able to regulate our emotions, and generally function poorly without enough sleep.
If you recognize any of these signs, there’s a good chance that you aren’t getting the sleep you need:
- Poor Performance at School or Work
- Becoming Tired or Distracted While Driving
- Involvement in Drowsy Driving or Distraction Related Fender Benders
- Troubles With Memory or Concentration
- Waking up With a Headache or Sore Throat
- Partner or Household Members Reporting That You Snore Loudly or Have Breathing Troubles
- Weight Gain
- Relying on Caffeine And Other Stimulants to Stay Awake
- Relying on Alcohol or Other Sedatives to Fall Asleep
Many people believe that if they don’t get much sleep, that they simply don’t need it. This is untrue. It simply means you could have a potentially damaging sleep related condition like insomnia.
Some people don’t get the restful sleep they need because they subscribe to popular but very untrue theories about sleep. For example, many people believe the elderly don’t require much sleep. This is untrue. There’s no evidence that people over the age of 60 need less sleep than other adults. However, there are health factors that can cause the elderly to be sleep deprived.
Chronic pain, heart conditions, untreated sleep apnea, even uncomfortable room temperatures can lead to seniors getting less sleep. This in turn can aggravate a number of physical and mental health conditions.
Teenagers are also a frequent victim of sleep related myths. Many teens face criticism from parents and other adults for going to bed late, and for their desire to sleep later in the morning. Parents and schools often force teens to go to sleep early and rise early in the morning to go to school. The intention is often to prepare them for the typical work day schedule.
Unfortunately, all of these things go against the natural sleep rhythms of the average teenager. They don’t need significantly more sleep than adults, but they are biologically ‘wired’ to stay up late and sleep late. When they don’t get enough sleep teenagers can become involved in drowsy driving accidents, and struggle with their school work. In order to solve this problem, many people are embracing the ‘Start School Later’ movement. This movement encourages school districts to adjust high school start times to better meet the needs of adolescent students. This effort is supported by the AMA, CDC, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Finally, there’s the pervasive myth sleep is something you can bank and repay. This simply isn’t true. You cannot deny yourself the sleep you need, and then make up for it at a later time. Your body and mind really need consistent, restful sleep.
Making Sure You Get a Good Amount of Sleep
Start with the CDC guidelines listed above. If you aren’t getting the minimum amount of recommended sleep, that could cause you problems. You’ll want to be proactive in dealing with this. That means getting to the cause of your sleep troubles, making lifestyle changes, or seeking medical treatment. Fortunately, there are a lot of options out their for treating insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, and other conditions. Some people find success with surgical interventions or medication, others use natural remedies like essential oils for snoring. Whatever you choose, your quality of life will improve significantly once you are getting the right amount of sleep.