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Health

How much sleep do you really need?

21 November 2019 in Health

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We all need sleep to stay physically and mentally healthy, yet many of us fail to get enough sleep each night. Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that 35% of adults don’t get enough sleep. If, like many others, you turn to coffee to make it through the day, you may not notice when you’re sleep deprived. However, the effects of night after night of poor sleep can build over time and lead to health problems, such as depression, heart disease and low sex drive. Are you getting the level of good-quality sleep your body needs? Read on to find out.

How much sleep do you need?

The amount of sleep we need changes with age. Newborns need 14 to 17 hours each day, teenagers need 8 to 10 hours and adults need 7 to 9 hours. Although most adults require 7 to 9 hours of good-quality sleep each night, some may need more and others less. A good measure of if you’re getting enough sleep each night is how you feel the next day. If you wake up tired and continue to feel tired during the day, you’re probably not getting enough sleep.

What happens when you don’t get enough sleep?

An occasional night without sleep can leave you feeling tired and short-tempered the next day, but it won’t harm your health. However, night after night of poor sleep can have a more serious mental and physical impact.

The mental effects of sleep deprivation

The mental effects of sleep deprivation include:

  • brain fog - making it difficult to concentrate and make decisions
  • low mood
  • excessive daytime sleepiness - putting you at risk of accidents at home, work and on the road

Long-term lack of sleep may also lead to mood disorders like depression and anxiety.

The physical effects of sleep deprivation

If you don’t get enough sleep over a long period of time it can increase the risk of medical conditions, including:

  • a weakened immune system - prolonged lack of sleep can disrupt your immune system, making you more prone to coughs, colds and other bugs
  • obesity - people who sleep for less than 7 hours a day may have a higher risk of obesity than those who get 7 hours of slumber
  • diabetes - studies suggest that people who usually sleep for less than 5 hours a night have an increased risk of developing diabetes
  • low sex drive - research shows that people who don’t get enough high-quality sleep have less interest in sex
  • heart disease - long-standing sleep deprivation may be associated with increased heart rate and blood pressure, and higher levels of chemicals linked with inflammation
  • poor fertility - men and women who don’t get enough sleep may have difficulty conceiving a baby. This may be due to disruptions in the secretion of reproductive hormones

How can you get enough sleep?

Getting enough sleep isn't just about how many hours of slumber you achieve each night, it's also about the quality of the sleep you get. In fact, sleep quality has a bigger impact on your overall health than sleep quantity. But how can you tell if your sleep is of good quality or not? According to The National Sleep Foundation, there are 4 questions you should ask yourself to determine if you have high-quality sleep.

  1. How long does it take you to fall asleep?

People who enjoy high-quality sleep tend to fall asleep within 30 minutes of going to bed. However, almost 30% of people take longer than half an hour to fall asleep every night.

  1. How often do you wake up during the night?

Waking up no more than once during the night is a sign of high-quality sleep. This is because waking up repeatedly throughout the night disrupts your natural sleep cycle.

  1. How long does it take you to go back to sleep?

People with high-quality sleep fall back to sleep within 20 minutes of waking up during the night.

  1. How much of your time in bed is spent sleeping?

To enjoy high-quality sleep, aim to spend at least 85% of your time in bed asleep.

So, how good is your sleep? If there’s room for improvement, don’t worry. This article is the first in a series that will show you how to sleep better by making small changes to your daily habits.

Tracking your daily sleep patterns and how you feel the next morning is a great place to start. Why not download our app and keep track of how long and how well you sleep with our sleep tracker?

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Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.