Just what is the ideal number of hours we need for sleep each night? Do we sleep to much or too little? Researchers have been conducting sleep studies for years to determine how much sleep we really need each night, but there’s still no magic number. Sleep needs vary from person to person and are further affected age, health and lifestyle.
Is Eight Hours the Magic Number?
Sleep experts typically recommend seven to nine hours of sleep a night for healthy adults, but recent studies show that seven hours, not eight, might be the optimal amount. Sleep studies done over time by the Centers for Disease Control and Duke University show that people who sleep seven hours a night seem to have the lowest mortality and morbidity rates and better cognitive performance during the day.
Studies showed that overall cognitive performance increased as people got more sleep, but reached a peak at seven hours. After seven hours, additional sleep had no effect.
Too Little – Too Much Sleep
Although the exact sleep number is still being debated, we do know that lack of sleep and sleeping too much can have serious health consequences. Nights without sleep, often referred to as “white nights”, oversleeping and sleep disorders all increase your health risks:
* Heart Disease – elevated stress hormones can damage blood vessels and lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.
* Obesity – appetite hormones get out of kilter causing you to crave more fattening foods and snacks over healthy foods.
* Diabetes – after just one night of sleep deprivation, your body’s ability to handle glucose is impaired resulting in drops and spikes in blood sugar levels.
* Headaches – lack of sleep can cause headaches, especially in people who are predisposed to headaches or migraines.
* Depression – the same brain chemicals used in sleep-wake cycles are also used for mood, energy, memory and concentration.
* Impaired judgement – problems with driving, working, studying and performing daily tasks can result from decreases in neurological functions caused from lack of sleep.
* Death – multiple studies show that people who sleep less than six hours or more than nine hours a night have significantly higher death rates than people sleeping seven to eight hours a night.
According to studies, 90 percent of people who suffer from insomnia, a sleep disorder characterized by trouble falling and staying asleep, have additional health problems.
Although there’s no perfect time to go to sleep or wake up, getting adequate sleep is crucial to your next day’s performance. Our bodies have an internal clock that affects our body temperature, heart rate, hormonal responses and sleep cycles. This internal clock is determined by a 24-hour circadian rhythm that all living beings have. Health experts believe that understanding your body’s internal clock can help you plan your day for optimal health benefits.
Tips to Improve Sleep
Understanding your body’s clock and figuring out how many hours of sleep work best for you may take some time. See how you respond to different amounts of sleep with careful attention to your energy and mood the next day. Follow these helpful tips to a good night’s sleep.
* Keep a consistent sleep and wake schedule, even on weekends
* Create a relaxing routine to unwind about an hour before bedtime
* Stop eating at least three hours before bedtime
* Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime
* Keep your bedroom dark and quiet with cool temperatures
* Use your bedroom only for sleeping and avoid your computer and watching TV
* Make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable, or get a replacement mattress
* Get regular exercise
How many hours do you usually sleep?