How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?
Have you come across anyone who hates sleeping? No? Well, same here. Everyone loves a good snooze, except those who are shareholders in insomnia land. And even they wish they could fall right off to sleep, but somehow the brain refuses to cooperate.
It’s commonly known that sleep deprivation is the root of many heath concerns, but the question that lingers all the time is, ‘how much is enough?’
The Guide According To Age Groups
Let’s start with a few facts. Life happens, and so the odds are against you getting the required amount of sleep every night. Almost everyone within a tax bracket (all over the planet) walks around with ‘sleep debt,’ and thankfully, we have caffeine to keep us together all day.
How much sleep you need depends on a few factors, some of which are your age and lifestyle. From a journal published by the National Sleep Foundation, Newborns (0-3 months) are required to sleep for between 14 and 17 hours. While they sleep, their developing bodies grow rapidly which explains why they look so different every time you see them.
For infants (4-11 months) the organization recommends 12 to 15 hours, while toddlers (1-2 years) should be out for between 11 and 14 hours of their day. Preschoolers (3-5 years) also need to put in a lot of hours – 10 to 13, which ironically they hate. School going children between 6 and 13 years will need to put in between 9 and 11 hours, while 8 to 10 hours are ideal for teenagers, who, of course, are in the 13-19 age bracket.
Young adults, who are persons between 20 and 25, are required t sleep for between 7 to 9 hours, while older adults are good with 7 to 8 hours of sleep. These durations do not factor in sleeping disorders or any other thing that might make it hard for a person to get to sleep. Those suffering from sleep apnea are jolted several times a night, and so they may not sleep for as long
Easier Said Than Done
These hours are easier to achieve in theory than in reality. Except for the first five age groups, sleep evades most of us for various reasons. The requirements can vary by one or two hours, but it is recommended that people within those age brackets get as much shut eye as stipulated. For adults, who seem to have the biggest problem falling sleep, anything less than 6 hours per night is highly discouraged.
Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Lack of sleep manifests itself in various stages. On the onset, you may notice increased levels of energy, especially of you work out on the regular. This feeling makes you think that you can manage even on a sleep deficit.
Over time, usually after about a week of continued sleep debt, the brain’s cognitive function will be affected. Speech becomes a bit slurred, and simple thoughts take forever to be processed.
Effects on Cognitive Function
The region of the brain that supports faculties such as working memory, logical and practical reasoning is highly tasked in sleep-deprived individuals. A study conducted shows that the brain seems to work harder when sleep deprived than when one is well-rested.
During this extensive study, it was noted that the temporal lobe (region involved in verbal speech) is activated in well-rested individuals, but this is not the case for those who haven’t slept well in a while. This means that the latter group will find it harder to learn a new language or verbalize their thoughts.
The activity in the thalamus, (alertness and attention center), is affected and one becomes slow and less productive all day. Lack of sharpness causes mood swings, and generally, every day feels like a Monday morning. You will notice irritability and even depression in severe cases.
It Hinders Healing
Tests conducted on a group of rats that was denied the chance to reach the dream cycle of sleep shows that they healed much slower than a group that was allowed to sleep until they were rested. Case in point; have you had a common cold that will not go away? Try sleeping for 8 hours tonight and see the results in the morning. Several functions when we sleep.
Other things include low levels of leptin, the hormone that controls appetite, and so you may find yourself having uncontrolled cravings for all the unhealthy food. This eating eventually leads to obesity and other weight related health concerns.
Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Sleep?
Yes, there is, and you have probably been a victim at least once in your life.
Tired and Lethargic
Ever woken up fatigued? Well, good night’s sleep should leave you rejuvenated and fresh for the day, but that only happens when you sleep to a maximum of eight hours (for adults). Anything above this will be more damaging than good.
The interesting thing is that oversleeping has the same effect on the brain as sleep deprivation. Sleep longer than 7 hours, and you may wake up irritable and unable to function as you would normally.
A study found that long sleepers have an increased chance of getting dementia when compared to their light sleeping counterparts. However, it is worth noting that long sleepers not only spend longer than nine hours in bed, but they are also likely to take long naps during the day.
Just Enough Shut-Eye
It is worth noting that the said hours do not apply to everyone. Some people hit the sweet spot at 7 hours, while others need the 8 or nine to rest entirely. Research has shown seven hours to be just fine. As much as several factors may be hindering your ability to sleep well, some elements can be eliminated. Caffeine, a few hours before bedtime, will alter the cycle, as will a long nap during the day. If you have to snooze, (a healthy habit), 30 minutes will not affect your cycle. It would also serve you better to switch off all the lights before you sleep.
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