How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?


In a recent doctor’s visit, I brought up my inability to sleep through the night. I had expected him to blame it on a medication I am taking as I recuperate from a long illness, but to my surprise he did not. My doctor suggested I may not sleep through the night because I simply may not need that much sleep. After giving it some thought, he could be right. Health issues have greatly reduced my activity level. I don’t expend as much energy, so perhaps I just don’t require as much rest. So how do I stop waking up in the middle of the night? This led me to an in-depth internet search session, where I found what seems to be very good information. Here is what I found:

How much sleep do we really need? According to the National Sleep Foundation, it is a sliding scale with variables such as age, health, work schedules, stress level, and sleep deficit. Although the average healthy adult can usually function well on 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night, it is important to identify your specific basil sleep need – the amount of sleep your body needs on a regular basis for optimal performance – and review this need frequently. Many factors, including illness and change of season, can affect your basil sleep need. Adjustments should be made to prevent building a sleep deficit. Prolonged sleep deficit can become sleep deprivation, which has been linked to:

  • Drowsy driving
  • Obesity
  • Increased risk of diabetes and heart problems
  • Depression
  • Shortened attention span, inability to follow instructions or learn new information

On the other hand, regular sleep habits meeting your basil sleep need can provide significant benefits including lower stress and improved mood, healthy weight and coordination.

So how do we figure out exactly how much sleep is enough? Michael Breus, PhD on WebMD suggests this test: Set your alarm clock for the time you need to get up in the morning and go to sleep as normal. If you do not wake up before the alarm goes off, go to bed 15 minutes earlier the next night. Continue to go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until you wake on your own, shortly before your alarm goes off. When this finally happens, record the time you went to bed the night before and count forward. This is the number of hours your body needs eachnight, or your basil sleep need. Another approach would be to simply go to bed without setting an alarm and note how many hours you sleep until waking well rested and ready for your day. It may be wise to do this several days in a row, perhaps over a weekend, in case you have a deficit to make up the first night. Unfortunately, most of us do not have control over what time we must get up each day – jobs, pets, families, and other responsibilities often dictate that. If this is the case, you must adjust your bedtime so that you are able to meet your basil sleep need and still wake at the appropriate time.

Once you have established your ‘to bed’ and ‘to rise’ schedule, the Mayo Clinicsuggests these seven tips for a restful night’s sleep:

  • Stick to the same schedule, 7 days a week.
  • Don’t go to bed too hungry or too full, avoid nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine – just like when you were a kid
  • Sleep in a dark, cool, quiet room. Do not allow pets in the room and be aware of mattress and pillow firmness. They should give proper support without being uncomfortable.
  • Limit naps to no more than 30 minutes, and nap in afternoon if at all.
  • Get regular exercise. Because this can be energizing, it may be best to exercise in the mornings.
  • Manage stress. Have a good laugh every day. Keep a pen and pad by the bed. Write down what ever Is on your mind. This will allow you rest without worry, assured you will remember to begin again in the morning.

Establishing a healthy sleep routine may take a little time and take some getting used to, but the benefits greatly outweigh any inconvenience. Sleep well!

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