Medical experts do not yet understand the need to sleep. However, after decades of research, all studies agree that sleep is essential for long and short time health benefits. Still, how many hours of sleep do I need is a question many people ask each night. Some it’s for the need to sleep more and get a good excuse for why they’re always sleeping and many others for their genuine concerns about health.
How much sleep do I need?
Consultation of experts is vital when figuring out the optimal amount of sleep necessary for a good night’s rest. Sleep research organizations such as the Sleep Research Society and the National Sleep Foundation have researched the recommended amount of sleep in every 24-hour cycle. The results differ from newborns and adolescents, and even adults. The surprise is that even in adults, the amounts of sleep each one needs are based on factors such as environmental factors and genetics.
Age Recommended Hours of Sleep
Newborns (1-3 months) 14-17 hours
Infants (4-12 months) 12-16 hours
Toddler (1-2 ½ yrs.) 11-14 hours
Preschool Children (3-5 yrs.) 10-13 hours
School Children (6-12 yrs.) 9-13 hours
Teens (12-18 yrs.) 8-10 hours
Adults 7-9 hours
Changes of sleep with age
When looking around in young adults and teenagers, many do not prioritize sleep due to partying or studying. However, sleep loss in young adults and adolescents is the same as in older people. It is crucial for both mental and physical well-being. Still, as you age, there may be some changes in sleep patterns that are noticeable, including:
• Waking up earlier in the morning than usual
• Overly tired in the evening
• Short sleep duration during the night
• Waking up multiple times at night
• Having more than one nap during the day
• Long hours awake during the night
Still, the hours of sleep in 24 hours is 7 or 8 hours. Although the difference comes in sleep patterns, it’s the same for a 20 or 80-year-old for optimal health.
Signs you’re not getting enough sleep
The effects of sleep deprivation are extreme, mainly if work and life stressors contribute to the factor. When the body gets less sleep than recommended, some of the body’s systems may be affected and vital functions. Some reasons for not getting enough sleep may include chronic pain, sleep apnea, or even insomnia.
Some signs of not getting enough sleep include:
• Feeling drowsy during the day
• Easily irritable for moody
• Unfocused and less productive
• Lack of judgment
• Postponing decision-making on important issues
• Dark under-eye and a dark complexion
• Droopy corners of the mouth and rough skin
With 2020 sleep studies showing that sleep deprivation can double or triple the amount of air someone makes due to the lack of attention, it is also connected to sleep disorders such as anxiety and depression affecting an individual’s overall health.
The recommended 7 hours of sleep
Seven hours of sleep, according to experts, indicates the lower spectrum of how long and individuals should sleep during the night. It is considered a healthy range, but everyone has their own needs. Genetics also plays an important role and how an individual will respond to sleep. It shows that some may have sleep satisfaction with only 7 hours of sleep while some need up to 9 hours.
To get the recommended 7 hours of sleep, it’s likely that one will need to go to bed a little sooner to sleep for the whole 7 hours. It will also account for the nighttime awakenings and overall disruption of sleep.
Sleep deprivation and sleep debt
Accumulation of missed hours of sleep amounts to sleep debt. With it, the body starts to shut down minor functioning to help the effective functioning of the body run optimally. To help the body recover, long stretches of sleep are advisable. Without the debt repayment, sleep deprivation will lead to slower reaction times, lack of judgment on essential issues, and overall tired and sluggish behavior.
Importance of REM (Rapid eye movement) Sleep and Deep Sleep
There are stages of sleep in which the body goes through every night. Two light stages where it’s easy to wake up with little disruption and deeper sleep cycles. It is also known as rapid eye movement (REM), where the eye darts quickly around as breathing, pulse, and blood pressure increase significantly. It is in this stage where the most dreaming happens. It’s vital for memory and learning, helping the brain to handle information it has gotten throughout the day.
In the deep stages of sleep, brain activity slows down considerably, and the body goes into repair mode, repairing tissue and working on growth and development aspects. It helps to boost the immune system while building the energies needed for the next day’s functioning.
Benefits of sleeping 7+ hours a night
The most apparent reason to sleep 7+ hours a night is a body feels it has enough rest. However, many other benefits are arising from it:
When functioning on low sleep, it starts becoming difficult to remember details. Light sleep moments are vital to help the body learn and memorize things it has come across. Without enough sleep, it becomes harder to focus on details and study new information, even when trying to.
In everyday life, it’s normal to go through a range of emotions. With distressing feelings sticking more than happy ones, sleep helps the mind process the emotions, offering alternatives to react to let go of issues. Still, lack of enough sleep is likely to develop further health issues such as panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. With enough sleep, it’s possible to look at the positive aspects boosting the mood.
While in a deep sleep, the heart works significantly lesser since the body is at rest. It gives the heart time to rest as well as the blood vessels as blood pressure also decreases. The lower the blood pressure stays in 24 hours, the less likely it will develop to heart deceases or even stroke.
When the body lacks sleep, the immune cells also change the way they work. With the slowing of body functions, it’s easier to get sick since harmful bacteria and viruses can attack the good cells in the body quicker as the body responds slower. A good night’s rest will ensure that the body recovers and works optimally.
Sleeping is the easiest way for weight control as to when the body is sleeping; it cannot ingest food at the same time. Still, when the body has enough rest, hunger pangs strike less as hormones in the brain such as Leptin and Ghrelin work well-controlling appetite.
Can you make up for lost sleep?
With the pressures of life, it’s not surprising that many adults are operating for less than seven hours each night. The result is that sleep debt increases with sleep deprivation becoming obvious. Many usually push themselves more, looking forward to sleeping during the weekends to make up for lost sleep time.
Surprisingly, the strategy of making up for lost sleep works to a certain extent as the body and brain get to rest instead of running on sleep deficit 24/7. Although the strategy works to reduce the effects of less sleep, such as fatigue and drowsiness, it cannot fully make up for lost sleep. The results of deprivation will eventually negatively affect the body, and sleeping enough in 24 hours remains the healthiest option. A great way to combat a lack of sleep is by getting naps that energize the body immediately.
Tips for better sleep
For a healthy body, sleep is essential. Some of the tips to use for better sleep are;
Regularly exercise at least four times a week and schedule the exercises at least 5 hours before it’s time to go to sleep. Exercising too close to bedtimes will lead to sleep interruptions.
Take shorter naps of only 30 minutes, especially when suffering from sleep interruptions or night awakenings.
Wake up same time daily
Expose the body and especially the eyes to daylight and bright lights to maintain the body’s circadian rhythms responsible for sleep-wake cycles.
Limit caffeine and nicotine close tonight times as they can potentially interrupt sleep.
Go offline and switch off all electronics at least 40 minutes before bedtime to avoid over-stimulation of the brain with the lights.
Optimize room temperatures
Invest in a comfortable mattress
Have a relaxing bedtime routine that works to soothe and relax the body.
Limit alcohol intake as it may make it difficult to fall asleep.
Listen to white noise to relax the body and avoid overthinking.
Relax all muscles and focus on sleeping
Go to bed early
When to talk to a doctor
There are numerous things to do to help ensure that the body is getting enough rest. However, making a doctor’s appointment after putting the necessary measures in place makes it impossible to get 7 hours of sleep. Watch out if sleep problems arise more than once a week and isolate the issue that causes the problem to occur. Even after getting sufficient sleep but are being concerned about the quality of sleep the body and brain are getting, it’s advisable if you can see a doctor. Do not push aside feelings of fatigue and forgetfulness as it can be a symptom of another underlying issue.