There’s a reason we tell our loved ones to get a good night’s sleep. For many of us, the benefits of a good night’s rest are second nature, as we tend to feel better about ourselves and more competent to take care of our responsibilities when we are well rested. But for many others, we struggle to get the right amount of sleep. According to National Sleep Foundationabout half of all Americans feel sleepy three to seven days a week — a sure sign we could all use a little more.
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How much sleep do you need?
The younger you are, the more sleep you need. Babies need lots of sleep. As children get older, their sleep needs decrease. “In adulthood, most healthy people need 7 to 8.5 hours,” says a psychologist and specialist in sleep disorders. Michelle Drerup, PsyD, DBSM. Here is the average amount children and adults need according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
|Age||Hours of sleep needed|
|6-12 years old||9-12|
|13-18 years old||8-10|
|19-64 years old||7-9|
|65+ years old||7-8|
Although sleep needs vary depending on your genetics, most adults fall between seven and nine hours. If you think you thrive on less, you might want to reconsider.
“There are people who sleep little, but it’s quite rare,” notes Dr. Drerup. “We’re not very good judges of how sleep loss affects us, and most people who think they’re fine with little sleep would probably be better off with a little more.”
A common misconception is that older people don’t need as much sleep as they do in middle age. Older adults should always aim for at least seven hours, says Drerup.
“Older people have different sleeping habits. They tend to sleep more lightly and may wake up earlier in the morning,” she says. “But you still need the same amount of sleep over 24 hours, so if you sleep less at night, you might need a daytime nap.”
Benefits of sleep
Sleep is a catch-all that benefits your physical, mental, and emotional health. When you sleep, your body has the opportunity to rest and recover – and these restorative properties even happen at the cellular level. Some major sleep benefits include:
Of course, developing consistent sleep habits to maximize these benefits can be a battle in itself. Dr. Drerup offers these tips for getting the most out of your sleep schedule:
- Relax: Before bed, wind down by turning off electronics (aim an hour ahead), dimming the lights, and doing calming activities (like taking a warm bath, reading, and relaxing) that will help your body heal. fall asleep.
- Go slowly: If you’re used to staying up until 2 a.m., you’re unlikely to fall asleep at 11 p.m. Start by moving your bedtime back 15 or 20 minutes. After a few days, turn it over for another 20.
- To be coherent: If you cut your sleep short during the week, you won’t be able to completely pay off that sleep debt on the weekends. Instead, try going to bed and waking up at around the same time each day.
- Being flexible: “You won’t be perfectly consistent every night,” she says. “But if you’re within an hour of your ideal sleep goal, that’s a good goal.”
Symptoms and Side Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Even losing an hour or two of sleep can impact your mood and overall health. So how do you know if you’re not getting enough sleep or if your dizzy spell the night before was a one-time fluke? Here are some common signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation that you should pay attention to:
- Struggling to stay awake when inactive (such as while watching television).
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Slow to respond to others.
- Loss of motivation.
- Increase in mood or mood.
- Constantly yawn.
- Periods of drowsiness throughout the day.
- Need several energy naps (sleep for short periods).
- You are tired all the time.
It’s important to keep an eye out for these symptoms, especially if they occur daily or weekly, because shortening your long-term sleep can lead to a host of long-term issues, including:
The stages of sleep
An average sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes. Ideally, you need four to six cycles of sleep every 24 hours to feel fresh and rested. Each cycle contains four individual stages: three that form non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Although the time spent in each stage varies as you sleep, and you can bounce between stages each night, each individual stage remains largely the same.
First stage NREM
This stage of light sleep lasts five to 10 minutes. During this stage, you are “dozing off” as your body and brain activity begins to slow down. If you are awake at this point, you may feel like you haven’t fallen asleep at all.
NREM stage two
During this phase of light sleep, your muscles begin to relax as your body temperature drops and your heart rate and breathing slow down. During this stage, your eye movements stop and your brain waves slow down. There are occasional bursts of brain waves called sleep spindles which are believed to help store your memories and shut down your senses so that your sleep is not interrupted. This stage prepares you to enter deep sleep and can last up to 25 minutes.
NREM Stage Three
This stage is known as deep sleep, during which your eyes and muscles are completely at rest. During this stage, your body repairs itself by regrowing tissue, strengthening your immune system, and building bone and muscle. It is increasingly difficult to wake up during this stage, and if you are awake, you may experience a period of disorientation and brain fog for up to 30 minutes or an hour. During earlier sleep cycles, this stage can last 20 to 40 minutes and becomes shorter and shorter as the sleep cycles progress. As you age, you spend less time in this stage and more time in the second stage.
You dream during this stage. Your brain activity increases dramatically and may even match or exceed your usual brain activity when you are awake. Your muscles go into a state of temporary paralysis, except for your eyes (which move rapidly at this point) and the muscles you need to breathe. Your breathing quickens and your heart rate and blood pressure increase. Usually, the first period of REM sleep occurs about 90 minutes into your sleep cycle and lasts about 10 minutes. Each of your subsequent REM phases gets longer the longer you stay asleep.
Sleeping troubles? When to consult a doctor
About 70 million people in the United States know sleep disordersfrom insomnia for Sleep Apnea, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy and more. If you are concerned about your sleep habits or have any of these conditions, make an appointment with your family doctor or a sleep clinic as you may need to participate in a sleep study.