Regarding sleep, knowing when enough is enough can be difficult.
Health organizations, doctors and news media always seem to be telling us to get more sleep, but how do you actually know how much you need? Knowing when enough is enough can be difficult because there is no magic number.
Different age groups require different amounts of rest to feel re-energized. That's why your teenage son or college-age daughter sleeps until one in the afternoon but you wake up naturally at eight in the morning. But sleep requirements are also individual. You may need a different amount of sleep than someone who is the same gender and age as you.
The Eight Hour Myth
The most common response to “how much sleep do you need each night?” is eight hours, but that popular myth may not be true. Danile Kripke, one of the world's most revered sleep researchers, determined that while no evidence has ever pointed to eight being the magic number, studies do show that individuals who get 6.5 to 7.5 hours of shut eye each night are more productive, happier and live longer than people with different sleep schedules.
The Dangers of Not Getting Enough Sleep
Finding the right balance is important because not getting enough sleep can do more than just make you sleepy and cranky. People who get less than five hours of sleep on an average night have a higher chance of developing cardiovascular problems and high blood pressure. They are also more likely to suffer from alcoholism, obesity, depression and diabetes.
The bottom line is that most adults function best with seven to nine hours of rest each night, but others do alright with as little as six hours. The key to getting a healthy amount of sleep is to find your own optimum waking and sleeping cycle.
If you feel refreshed and alert upon waking, chances are you are getting a healthy amount of sleep. If you always seem to wake up feeing unfocused, sleepy and irritable, you may need to change your habits or see a sleep specialist.
Getting Better Sleep
If you feel sleep-deprived or have trouble falling asleep at night, follow these tips:
- Don't eat or drink before bed. Eating too much before sleeping can cause discomfort, and drinking before bed can mean disruptive trips to the bathroom.
- Create a ritual for bedtime. Tell your body it is time to rest by reading a book, relaxing in a warm bath or listening to calming music.
- Manage stress. Stop laying in bed and worrying all night by learning healthy ways to manage stress, like getting organized, laughing with old friends or exercising.