When you sleep too much you may feel lethargic. when you sleep too little you may be irritable and lose focus. But, what determines your ideal sleep requirements? How many hours of sleep do you need? Scientists have been studying for decades how many hours of sleep people need. The duration differs according to age groups but, sleep is indispensable for all.
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How Much Is Enough?
Every individual requires a certain amount of sleep to function efficiently. For you, six hours of rest may be enough. A fellow colleague may require a full eight hours of sleep to be able to perform the same tasks.
The appropriate amount of sleep fluctuates from person to person. But, an average adult requires at least 7-9 hours nightly. You may be able to sustain yourself if you get to sleep 6 hours of sleep. But, is six hours of sleep enough? By all accounts, no!
Just because your body seems to be doing okay with fewer hours of sleep, does not mean it’s advisable long term. You may feel alright after the first, second or even the tenth time, but gradually, your body will fatigue. The longer you keep up this practice, the harder it will be to treat symptoms of sleep deprivation. The following is a table of how much an individual needs to sleep by age.
Average Sleep Needs by Age
The rough chart below lists sleep requirements across a range of age groups. This is a ballpark figure you can take to help calculate how much time you should set aside for sleep.
|Age||Hours of Sleep Needed||Acceptable Range of Sleep|
|0-3 months||14-17 hours||11-19 hours|
|4-11 months||12-15 hours||10-18 hours|
|1-2 years||11-14 hours||9-16 hours|
|3-5 years||10-13 hours||8-14 hours|
|6-13 years||9-11 hours||7-12 hours|
|14-17 years||8-10 hours||7-11 hours|
|18-25 years||7-9 hours||6-10 hours|
|26-64 years||7-9 hours||6-10 hours|
|Above 65 years||7-8 hours||5-9 hours|
Why Is Sleep so Important?
There are several reasons sleep is important. The simplest being that it helps recharge the body and mind. Scientists are still trying to figure out all that goes on after people doze off. While sleeping, a complicated series of activities restores and rejuvenates your entire system. Your muscles relax and your body is in a state of rest but your subconscious mind is still active. Your dreams, no matter how vivid or peculiar, are actually a sign of your well being.
The quality of sleep you are getting has a huge impact on the quality of your life. Your productivity at work, mental health and emotional stability depend on proper rest. Even your weight affected by how well you get to sleep at night. Evidence suggests human beings cannot survive without proper rest. Sleep deprivation can make you quite ill. If it gets severe, lack of sleep can be fatal.
REM and Deep Sleep
When you go to sleep, your brain processes go through a number of stages. Each stage of the sleep cycle is crucial to a productive night’s rest. When you first drift off, light sleep occurs. At this point any slight noise or disturbance could rock you awake. In the latter part of the night, you drift into REM (rapid eye movement). This is one of the most important stages of sleep. The REM stage is when you experience true, restorative sleep. It’s also the stage where you dream.
A full sleep cycle requires 60 – 90 minutes and takes place many times while you sleep. Staying healthy depends on your body having enough time for this process to take place. Disruption of your your circadian rhythm throws off sleep patterns and wakefulness. This also means you may not be getting enough hours of restorative REM sleep. If you go to sleep at 2 am and wake up by 6:30 am, don’t expect to be at your best the following day. A consistent sleep schedule is the best way to stay on track. REM sleep stages tend to be longer in the morning.
Myths and Facts about Sleep
- Myth: Your brain rests when you sleep.
Fact: The brain recharges and experiences several stages of sleep as the body rests. Several chemical processes take place in the brain when you sleep at night.
- Myth: Older people can do with fewer hours of sleep.
Fact: There are stipulated number of hours a person should sleep, depending on the age group they belong in. An average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep. Older adults may wake up more frequently at night but their body makes up for it by taking naps in the day.
- Myth: Snoring is a common, harmless problem.
Fact: Snoring could be a sign of sleep apnea, which is a condition where a person’s airways get constricted in their sleep. Sleep apnea can be treated, so if you notice symptoms like snoring, consult your physician.
- Myth: You can make up for lack of sleep during the week on the weekend.
Fact: While you can make up for some sleep, sleeping in on the weekend will not alleviate all your sleep debt.
- Myth: If you feel sleepy during the day, it means you did not sleep enough at night.
Fact: Even if you slept for eight hours at night, you can still feel sleepy during the day. While the quantity of sleep is important, the quality of sleep needs to be high as well. If you slept for eight hours, but the room was too hot and you awakened frequently, the quality of your sleep will be compromised.
How Do You Know If You Are Sleep Deprived?
If you are feeling fatigued but aware you are not getting the required sleep you need, you’ve already answered your own question. But symptoms of sleep deprivation can manifest in subtler ways too.
Here are some common symptoms of sleep deprivation:
- Having trouble waking up in the mornings
- Not being able to wake up without an alarm clock
- Feeling the urge to sleep extra on the weekends
- Feeling the need to take frequent naps through the day
- Falling asleep while relaxing, reading a book or watching television
- Falling asleep within only a few minutes of going to bed
- Feeling sluggish in meetings and in warm rooms
If you have been sleep deprived for a long time, you will not even notice that you are feeling sleepy at work. This state of daytime sleepiness becomes the new normal and you cannot recall what it is like to be fully alert and awake. But sleep deprivation can have far more serious repercussions than simply falling asleep in a boring meeting. Some of the effects of sleep deprivation include:
- Chronic fatigue and irritableness
- Increased risk of depression
- Diminished libido
- Lack of concentration, problem remembering small details
- Increased stress and the inability to deal with it
- Wrinkles and skin aging
- Compromised immune system
- Increased risk of chronic diseases like a cardiovascular problem, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, etc.
How to Prevent Sleep Deprivation?
You can ensure you get the right amount of sleep every night by maintaining a consistent schedule. If you are accustomed to irregular hours, this may take some discipline. Once you have adjusted to this new routine, maintaining this schedule will be second nature. The key is to maintain proper sleep hygiene. This includes making your surroundings more conducive for sleeping and following a stipulated bedtime. The following are some things you can do to prevent sleep deprivation. After all, prevention is better than having to look for a cure.
Consult a doctor to see if you are suffering from any kind of sleep disorder or if there is an underlying health issue that is causing your sleep deprivation.
Maintain a sleep schedule and try to stick to it as much as possible. Your body could use a little stability. When the body is used to sleeping at a certain time but you force it to stretch beyond, you are sending your body confused signals. Maintain the schedule even on the weekends.
Take note of what you are putting in your body and at what time. Avoid sugary foods and caffeine after lunch. Caffeine stays in your system for a few hours after it has been consumed so your evening coffee could be keeping you awake even much later at night. Alcohol, heavy meals and too many fluids can also disrupt your sleep.
Get the blood pumping by getting regular exercise. Improve blood circulation in your system so you feel less fatigued. This will release endorphins (the mood-elevating hormone released from doing physical exercise).
Deal with your stress. If there is something bothering you or keeping you worried at night, try to confront it head-on. If fixing what you are worried about is not in your control, tell yourself there is no point in worrying. This is easier said than done, obviously, but it is best to confront your demons.
Keep your bedroom clean and quiet. Ensure all sources of external light are covered. Your bedroom needs to be a cool and quiet cave for sleeping. Avoid keeping things on the bed.
Create a routine before you go to bed – this may be flossing, brushing your hair, putting moisturizer or anything else you find relaxing. You could try to meditate and impose a rule that you will stop looking at your phone at least 30 minutes before you settle into sleep.
Sleep deprivation can be harrowing and exhausting for the body. Although you may be able to power through and handle a few days of low sleep, it can be dangerous to make a habit out of it. It’s imperative you allow time for rest and recuperation. Notice the signs your body may be throwing your way and consistently get a good night’s rest. Your long term health depends on it!