According to the National Institutes of Health, the average sleep that a person gets at night is too little. Americans are on their way to having chronic sleep deprivation become an epidemic. While most people get between 6 and 7 hours of sleep a night (and to many people this sounds like a lot!), the fact that we are sleeping less and less not only makes us feel tired, but is also impacting our physical and mental health as well.
What Happens if You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?
Getting enough sleep at night may be more important than you realize. According to a recent analysis performed in the United States, getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night on a regular basis can affect your health in a variety of ways. Some of the impact of chronic sleep deprivation can include increased risk of heart disease, obesity, depression, and even premature death.
Emotional balance can also be affected by lack of sleep, as most people can attest to. Sleep deprivation can lead to grumpiness, impatience, communication problems, and even brokenness in relationships. It also impacts creativity and can severely disrupt quality of life.
Obesity can often be associated with lack of appropriate amounts of sleep. People who have insomnia, especially when related to sleep apnea, often struggle to keep from gaining weight. When people are sleeping, their hormones are balanced and toxins are removed, helping them to maintain a healthy weight. In addition, the practical fact about people who don’t get enough sleep is that they are often too tired to exercise.
How Much Sleep Does a Person Need?
Because the amount of sleep, as well as the quality of sleep you get affects your health, the answer is not as simple as a clearly defined number. When you think about how much sleep you need, everything is going to be based on averages. Some people need a bit more, and others a bit less. But there are some general guidelines that can get you started. Then, you may need to experiment a little bit to determine how much sleep might be ideal for you as an individual.
Sleeping the same number of hours, and also sleep at the same time each night, is strongly connected to sleep health. General guidelines suggest that the average adult should try to get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night on a regular basis. But this can also vary greatly depending on the age of the person in question. Children need a lot more sleep than adults, and older adults often need a lot less sleep than they may have in the past.
When considering what happens to the human body during sleep, it’s not surprise the children need a lot more sleep than adults. In fact, newborn babies sleep for up to 75% or more of their day! This is because the release of the human growth hormone happens while you sleep. And even most adults, although they are not technically still growing, are still in need of human growth hormone in order to function properly and maintain optimal health.
Recommended Amount of Sleep by Age
Here’s a general idea of how much sleep it is recommended for persons of each age range should be getting each night:
Newborn (up to three months): 14-17 hours
Infant (4-12 months): 12-15 hours
Toddler (12-24 months): 11-14 hors
Preschooler (3-5 years): 10-13 hours
School aged (6-12 years) 9-11 hours
Teenager (13-18 years) 8.5-10 hours
Young Adult (19-25 years) 7-9 hours
Adult (26-65 years) 7-9 hours
Older Adult (65+ years) 6.5-8 hours
Obviously, this is simply a guideline and each individual may fluctuate outside of these with either slightly less or more sleep. In general however, older people need less sleep than children do.
How to Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Sleep
Many people would like to get more sleep but they just aren’t sure how. Here are some tips to help you get the right amount of sleep for your body:
Stick to a Sleep Schedule.
Even on weekends, make it a priority to go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Your body will sink into circadian rhythms that magically help you to feel sleeping at the proper time in the evening, and wake up appropriately in the morning.
Switch off Electronics Early.
Those blue lights in the screens of your tablet, smart phone, or television may be hijacking your sleep. Turn them off at least an hour or two before going to sleep so that your brain can get some time away from electronics before going to sleep.
Not only does exercise make you sleep better at night because of physical exhaustion, but it also does something great with your brain. During exercise, the brain releases serotonin which is a feel-good substance that improves your well-being. But after dark that serotonin turns into melatonin, which is a substance that causes relaxation and helps your body and brain to go to sleep.
Make a Good Sleeping Space.
Check to see if your bedroom is a conducive space for sleeping. Cool temperature, appropriately dark, no disturbing sounds, comfortable bed, etc.
Avoid Certain Substances.
Be aware that caffeine may keep you from sleeping if you drink it late in the day. And that alcoholic nightcap you drank to help you sleep? It’s probably actually doing the opposite by preventing you from getting the deeper sleep you need in order to feel well-rested. Nicotine can also impede your sleep, so do your best to cut back on cigarettes or quit smoking altogether.
Creating a relaxing evening ritual will prepare your mind and body for sleep. Take a warm bath, read a relaxing book, apply lavender scented lotion, turn on soft music, or drink a cup of tea. Put your work away, turn off the television, get into your pajamas, breathe deeply and enjoy some time to relax before bed.
Making sure that you are getting enough sleep at night is a good idea for a variety of reasons. Most people who are chronically sleep deprived show signs if they stop to think consider it–they may be fatigued physically, mentally, and emotionally or exhibit symptoms of other health issues.
If you don’t often wake up on your own in the morning before your alarm clock goes off, then you probably need to take some action to get more quality sleep at night. Following the above tips for sleeping will get you started. Your brain and your body will thank you!
Last Updated on