We all need sleep in order to survive, but some of us need more hours each night than others. enough with the quote to justify our sleeplessness, you should take your sleeping time seriously.
Why sleep is important.
The quality of your sleep directly affects your mental and physical health and the quality of your waking life, including your productivity, emotional balance, brain and heart health, immune system, creativity, vitality, and even your weight. No other activity delivers so many benefits with so little effort!
When you’re scrambling to meet the demands of a busy schedule, though, or just finding it hard to sleep at night, getting by on less hours may seem like a good solution. But even minimal sleep loss can take a substantial toll on your mood, energy, mental sharpness, and ability to handle stress. And over the long-term, chronic sleep loss can wreak havoc on your mental and physical health.
Sleep isn’t merely a time when your body shuts off. While you rest, your brain stays busy, overseeing biological maintenance that keeps your body running in top condition, preparing you for the day ahead. Without enough hours of restorative sleep, you won’t be able to work, learn, create, and communicate at a level even close to your true potential. Regularly skimp on “service” and you’re headed for a major mental and physical breakdown.
How many hours of sleep do you need?
There is a big difference between the amount of sleep you can get by on and the amount you need to function optimally. According to the National Institutes of Health, the average adult sleeps less than seven hours per night. In today’s fast-paced society, six or seven hours of sleep may sound pretty good. In reality, though, it’s a recipe for chronic sleep deprivation.
Just because you’re able to operate on six or seven hours of sleep doesn’t mean you wouldn’t
Signs that you’re not getting enough sleep
If you’re getting less than eight hours of sleep each night, chances are you’re sleep deprived. What’s more, you probably have no idea just how much lack of sleep is affecting you.
How is it possible to be sleep deprived without knowing it? Most of the signs of sleep deprivation are much more subtle than falling face first into your dinner plate. Furthermore, if you’ve made a habit of skimping on sleep, you may not even remember what it feels like to be truly wide-awake, fully alert, and firing on all cylinders. Maybe it feels normal to get sleepy when you’re in a boring meeting, struggling through the afternoon slump, or dozing off after dinner, but the truth is that it’s only “normal” if you’re sleep deprived.
You may be sleep deprived if you…
- Need an alarm clock in order to wake up on time
- Rely on the snooze button
- Have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning
- Feel sluggish in the afternoon
- Get sleepy in meetings, lectures, or warm rooms
- Get drowsy after heavy meals or when driving
- Need to nap to get through the day
- Fall asleep while watching TV or relaxing in the evening
- Feel the need to sleep in on weekends
- Fall asleep within five minutes of going to bed
The effects of sleep deprivation
While it may seem like losing sleep isn’t such a big deal, sleep deprivation has a wide range of negative effects that go way beyond daytime drowsiness. Lack of sleep affects your judgment, coordination, and reaction times. In fact, sleep deprivation can affect you just as much as being drunk.
The effects include:
- Fatigue, lethargy, and lack of motivation
- Moodiness and irritability; increased risk of depression
- Decreased sex drive; relationship problems
- Impaired brain activity; learning, concentration, and memory problems
- Reduced creativity and problem-solving skills; difficulty making decisions
- Inability to cope with stress, difficulty managing emotions
- Premature skin aging
- Weakened immune system; frequent colds and infections; weight gain
- Impaired motor skills and increased risk of accidents; hallucinations and delirium
In theory, sleep takes up about 8 out of every 24 hours, one-third of our lives. But many of us don’t actually sleep that much and are tired all the time
- There’s a reason that doctors usually recommend 7 to 9 hours of sleep
The amount of sleep that people need falls into a bell curve type distribution, with the vast majority of the population needing between 7 and 9 hours of rest each night to be refreshed
- You have a natural chronotype, or body clock, that determines when you are most comfortable sleeping and being awake
Most of us think of ourselves as morning or night people, but those divisions aren’t scientific – they’re just ways of comparing ourselves to one another.
There’s no line that distinguishes different chronotypes, but we all do have an internal schedule that makes us feel awake or sleepier at different times of day because of factors including hormone levels, genetics, and light exposure, some of us are more alert in the mornings and some of us prefer times later in the day.
If your schedule isn’t aligned with your chronotype, you will feel tired and out of sync.
- The amount of sleep you need changes throughout your life
The seven to nine hour recommendation is standard for adults, but kids need much more sleep, while some older people need less, this chart by the National Sleep Foundation shows how these requirements change as kids grow up.
In addition to length of sleep needs changing, chronotypes change throughout life as well.
- There are some things you can do to adjust your natural chronotype
While your sleep needs (both chronotype, when you are alert, and length, how much sleep you need) are mostly genetic, there are certain things you can do to adjust your schedule and at least make it a bit easier to get up earlier.
Our bodies respond to light, especially the powerful natural light of the sun. Being exposed to that light in the morning tells our body that it’s time to be alert and moving. At night, sitting in the dark stimulates the production of the hormone melatonin, which helps us relax and fall asleep (we mess with this process by looking at bright light from smartphones). We can adjust this to a degree by controlling our exposure to light. This process, called entrainment, is what our bodies have to do when we go to a different time zone – this is why we get jet lagged.
But we can also use this to train our bodies to get up and go to sleep earlier by exposing ourselves to natural light in the morning and avoiding bright light at night, this won’t turn you into a morning person, but it can make prying the covers loose just a little less painful.
- Your sleep needs are personal; try to figure out what works for you
We do know that people are different and have different needs, if you can let yourself sleep naturally for a few days to a week, going to bed when you are tired and waking up whenever is natural, preferably while limiting alcohol and caffeine, you’ll have a better idea of your individual needs.
Myth: Getting just one hour less sleep per night won’t affect your daytime
Fact: You may not be noticeably sleepy during the day, but losing even one hour of sleep can affect your ability to think properly and respond quickly. It also compromises your cardiovascular health, energy balance, and ability to fight infections.
Myth: Your body adjusts quickly to different sleep schedules.
Fact: Most people can reset their biological clock, but only by appropriately timed cues—and even then, by one or two hours per day at best. Consequently, it can take more than a week to adjust after traveling across several time zones or switching to the night shift.
Myth: Extra sleep at night can cure you of problems with excessive daytime fatigue.
Fact: The quantity of sleep you get is important, sure, but it’s the quality of your sleep that you really have to pay attention to. Some people sleep eight or nine hours a night but don’t feel well rested when they wake up because the quality of their sleep is poor.
Myth: You can make up for lost sleep during the week by sleeping more on the
Fact: Although this sleeping pattern will help relieve part of a sleep debt, it will not completely make up for the lack of sleep. Furthermore, sleeping later on the weekends can affect your sleep-wake cycle so that it is much harder to go to sleep at the right time on Sunday nights and get up early on Monday mornings.