How long should I sleep every night? The answer to this question is a bit like the chicken or the egg dilemma – no one knows for sure. But scientists and experts have debated this topic for years, and there are plenty of theories about how much sleep people need.
Experts suggest that sleeping less than seven hours a night is unhealthy, but there are no one-size fits all answer to the question of how long people should sleep. Meaning that the average sleep duration for an individual depends upon several factors, specifically age which we will describe in detail.
However, before we get started, let's discuss why quality sleep duration matters!
Why Does Quality Sleep Duration Matter?
There are several aspects of human well-being that are associated with quality Sleep. According to National Sleep Foundation, sleeping for a minimum of 7-8 hours per night is essential to maintaining good health.
It has been proven that poor quality sleep can lead to an array of issues ranging from tiredness, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and even depression. Here are a few significant differences that are attributed to quality sleep duration:
Promotes Better Mental Health and Emotional Stability
Living a fulfilled life requires having good mental health. Research on NIH has repeatedly demonstrated that quality sleep is essential for improving mental and emotional health. Having regular good quality Sleep can help maintain a healthier balance between mind and body.
Comparatively, when you don't get enough hours of sleep, it negatively affects your cognitive functioning, making it more difficult to process information, recall memories and think clearly about tasks ahead of you.
Moreover, an increased risk of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues has been associated with prolonged sleep deprivation. Therefore, prioritizing your sleep health is vital to allow your body and mind to function correctly. Doing so will help you manage stress and enjoy a more emotionally balanced life.
Improves Focus and Concentration
Sleep is essential for mental clarity and alertness throughout the day. A good night's deep sleep helps you better focus on tasks and complex problems, making it easier to stay productive and efficient. Quality sleep reduces fatigue and improves memory, the formation and retention of facts, allowing you to recall information more easily when needed.
This ultimately boosts productivity, reduces errors, and improves overall performance. Studies have shown that even a single night of inadequate sleep can significantly impair focus and concentration, leading to decreased learning capacity and more difficulty in completing tasks.
Supports Cognitive Function and Memory
While we dream, the brain is busy consolidating memories from that day and organizing them for long-term storage. This process is essential for remembering facts, skills, and experiences. According to NIH we have more difficulty learning new information and recalling previously learned material when sleep-deprived.
Furthermore, quality sleep helps us regulate emotions and make decisions. A study in the Journal of Sleep Research found that people who had better quality sleep could recognize facial expressions of both positive and negative emotions better. It also found that poor REM sleep was associated with increased impulsivity. So, getting enough hours of sleep can help you stay emotionally balanced and make more rational decisions.
Quality Sleep is one of the most critical factors in reducing stress and improving overall health. When we get enough quality sleep, our bodies can better manage the hormones that regulate stress, helping us feel more peaceful during the day.
According to National Sleep Foundation people who get good-quality sleep without any sleep medicine are less likely to experience depression or anxiety than those who don't. Not only does quality sleep reduce stress, but it also boosts the immune system and helps to improve overall mental well-being.
A good night's sleep can help you stay productive and alert throughout the day, meaning you can complete tasks with greater accuracy and efficiency. Taking steps to ensure enough sleep, such as avoiding sleep medicine before bed and ensuring a comfortable sleeping environment, can make all the difference in reducing stress.
Strengthens the Immune System
Aside from several mental health benefits, enough sleep also improves physical health. During deep sleep, your body releases hormones that help fight infection and keep the immune system functioning optimally. National Sleep Foundation suggests that people who have complete sleep cycles are better equipped to fight colds and flu than those who don't.
Moreover, getting adequate rest also helps to lower stress levels which can further support the immune system and keep it functioning more effectively. Ensuring you have a regular sleep routine with plenty of quality shut-eye can help keep your body healthy and better equipped to fight illnesses.
So far we've discussed all the reasons why quality sleep matters, now let's move on with the amount of sleep you need to fulfil your daily sleep requirements.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
Sleep affects physical and mental health, so getting the right amount is essential. Where most adults' REM sleep cycles range from 7-9 hours of sleep each night, the exact amount varies from person to person. Furthermore, factors like age, lifestyle, sleep disorders and overall health can all contribute to the amount of sleep you need. To find out how much you should be getting, consider the following:
Lifestyle: Different lifestyles can also affect how you fall asleep. People who work long or irregular hours, exercise often, and eat a balanced diet may need more sleep than those who don't.
Overall Health: Both your mental can also affect your sleep schedule. If you're dealing with stress, anxiety, or depression, you may require more sleep to help regulate your mood and improve your well-being.
Age – Young children and teenagers typically require more than normal sleep. Newborns and infants need the most, with 16 hours daily being the average. As we age, our bodies become less reliant on sleep, so adults generally require between 7-9 hours a night. According to the sleep research society, here are the recommended amounts of sleep for different age groups:
Infants: 12 to 15 hours
Kids: 10 to 13 hours
Teens: 8 to 10 hours
Adults: 7 to 9 hours
Older Adults: 7 to 8 hours
What Are the Side Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation is an increasingly common problem. This trouble sleeping leads to various impairments and mental and physical health risks. In the short term, too little sleep affects alertness and performance, impairs cognitive function, and increases the risk of accidents.
Long-term sleep deprivation can lead to chronic fatigue, increased stress levels, reduced rem sleep cycle, and numerous physical and mental health conditions, including obesity and cardiovascular disease.
Sleep deprivation can cause a range of short-term and long-term side effects. Some of the most common are:
Feeling tired and groggy throughout the day - often even after getting adequate amount of sleep. That's because sleep deprivation affects the body's ability to regulate wakefulness and can leave you tired even after a good night's sleep.
Impaired memory and concentration - Sleep deprivation cause difficulty concentrating, remembering information, making decisions, and solving problems. It also reduces your productivity at work or school.
Mood swings - Sleep deprivation is linked to depression, anxiety, and irritability.
Increased risk of health problems - Poor sleep schedule is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions. It can also weaken the immune system and make you more susceptible to infection.
Difficulty focusing and paying attention - Poor REM sleep can make it harder to stay focused and pay attention. It can also slow down reaction time and make you more prone to mistakes.
Inability to make decisions - Not getting enough sleep impairs the ability to think clearly and logically, leading to decreased decision-making accuracy.
How to Improve the Quality of Sleep?
According to research, the quality of sleep greatly affects how well one functions during the day. The sufficient amount of sleep for each individual may vary from person to person, but generally speaking, adults need about 7-9 hours of sleep per night to function optimally.
While fulfilling your sleep requirements in this busy era may seem daunting, it doesn't have to be. By taking some simple steps, you can improve the quantity and quality of your sleep. Here's what you can do to make sure you get enough sleep:
Set a Bedtime Routine
Establishing a healthy sleep schedule is essential for good sleep hygiene. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day helps regulate your body's internal clock, or circadian rhythm, allowing you to feel alert during the day and sleepy at night without any sleep medicine.
Aim to go to bed 30 minutes before you fall asleep each night, gradually working your way up to an earlier bedtime and a better rem sleep cycle. Furthermore, here are a few reasonable steps to help you achieve a bedtime routine that works for you:
Add relaxation activities to your pre-bed routine, such as taking a warm bath or reading a book.
Avoid screens (phone, tablet, computer) for at least an hour before sleep, as the light from these devices can stimulate the brain and keep you awake.
Try to avoid napping during the day.
Limit your caffeine intake in the afternoon.
Create a comfortable sleeping environment by keeping the room dark and cool, using ear plugs or an eye mask if needed.
Avoid Consuming Caffeine and Heavy Meals Late in the Day
Maintaining healthy eating habits is crucial to get the most out of your day. Eating late at night can interfere with sleep quality and duration. That's because heavy meals and caffeine can take longer to digest, and the stimulant of caffeine can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Try herbal tea instead if you reach for coffee late in the day. If you're still tempted by a heavy meal late at night, focus on eating lighter proteins like fish or chicken with veggies.
Additionally, consuming caffeine and heavy meals close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep cycle. To promote better sleep hygiene, avoid caffeine after lunchtime and eat light snacks if necessary. Eating a nutritious, balanced diet and avoiding unhealthy snacks before bed can help you feel more energized and alert during the day.
Avoid Strenuous Physical Activity
Exercising during the day can help improve the quality of sleep, but engaging in strenuous physical activity just before bed could have the opposite effect. This is because exercise causes your body temperature to rise, making it more difficult for your body to transition into a deep sleep.
Therefore, avoiding vigorous physical activity for at least two hours before bed is best. Doing some gentle stretching or yoga poses, however, can be beneficial in helping to relax the body and prepare it for sleep. This is because specific stretches and poses help reduce stress hormones such as cortisol in the body and activate relaxation hormones such as serotonin and melatonin.
Reduce Exposure to Blue Light
Blue light from digital devices can negatively affect your sleep quality. Blue light disrupts the body's natural production of melatonin, a hormone that helps your body know when it's time to wind down and go to sleep.
To reduce exposure to blue light, limit your use of digital devices such as phones, tablets, and computers at least an hour before bed. However, if you must use a digital device in the evening, consider using apps or screen filters that reduce the amount of blue light emitted from the screen.
Keep lights low in your bedroom and opt for more traditional forms of entertainment, such as reading a book. Following these steps can help you get better quality sleep and feel refreshed and energized.
Limit Daytime Naps to No More Than 20-30 Minutes
Who doesn't like naps? They can be a great way to rest your body and restore its energy levels mid-day. However, taking too long a nap during the day can interfere with nighttime sleep.
Studies at NIH have shown that short naps can help improve alertness and cognitive performance, but if your nap lasts longer than 30 minutes, it could leave you dizzy and interfere with your nighttime sleep.
Therefore, by limiting daytime naps to no more than 20-30 minutes, you can ensure that you get the most out of your night's sleep. Limiting yourself to a shorter nap during the day will ensure that you have enough energy to get a good night's rest without sacrificing daytime productivity.
Now that you know all about how much sleep you need, here are a few commonly asked questions:
Are 7 Hours of Sleep Enough?
It depends. An average adult requires 8-9 hours of sleep per night. However, some adults require more than 9 hours of sleep every night. As per this amount of sleep, 7 hours of sleep is usually considered insufficient.
What Causes Sleep Deprivation?
Several factors may cause sleep deprivation, including work-related duties, inadequate sleep hygiene, sleep disorders, and other health conditions.
How Much Sleep Is Too Much?
Oversleeping or too much usually refers to sleeping more than 9 hours per 24 hours.
All in all, today's world may be busy, but the need to rest and get enough sleep is just as critical. Sleep deprivation can lead to short-term and long-term health consequences, including depression, anxiety, heart disease, stroke, obesity, and diabetes.
Therefore it's recommended that adults aged 18-64 get 8 or more hours of sleep per night to maintain good health, while those aged 65 and over should strive for 7-8 hours. Overall, getting the right amount of sleep can help ensure that you feel alert and have enough energy throughout the day, leading to a healthier and happier life.