How Much Sleep Do You Need?

November 03, 2021

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Sleep can often feel like yet another chore on your list. It can also be a huge source of stress if you’re tossing and turning in the wee hours of the morning. But lack of sleep is a serious issue. In fact, the CDC considers it a public health epidemic. After all, it can affect everything from our health to our driving skills, and it’s not improving.  

Keep reading to find out exactly why sleep is so important and how much sleep we should be getting. If you’re not hitting that quota, it’s time to make sleep a priority—for the sake of your health.

The Importance of Sleep

When push comes to shove, sleep is often the first thing you sacrifice to create more time to get what you need done. But what you may not realize is that not enough sleep can be just as bad as no sleep: in fact, this sleep deprivation study showed that those who got six hours of sleep a night functioned as poorly as those who got none. 


The importance of sleep can’t be understated. It helps regulate your mood, your energy levels, your cognitive function, and gives your body a much needed chance to recover. The quality and length of your sleep has a direct impact on the rest of your day, not to mention your overall health and wellness, so getting solid sleep every single night should be a top priority.

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

So, how much sleep do you need exactly? This age-old question has been debated by sleep experts for years. It’s true that there are rare people that can thrive on just four hours of sleep a night, but these are few and far between. For the rest of us, 7-8 hours of quality sleep a night is the official recommendation


Quality is the key word: tossing and turning for most of the night won’t net you the same restorative benefits of deep sleep. If you have trouble going to sleep (and staying asleep), you’ll find some helpful tips further on.

The Sleep Cycle

Understanding sleep means understanding the sleep cycle. You move between deep sleep, REM sleep, and varying stages of alertness throughout the night. The deepest sleep typically occurs in the first half of the night, while REM sleep (or the dreaming stage) happens in the second half while alternating with lighter sleep. 


Each cycle lasts about 90 minutes and you have about 4-6 cycles each night. If you find yourself groggy when waking, it’s probably because you were woken up right in the middle of deep sleep. To make it easier to wake up, try setting an alarm for the end of a sleep cycle, which would be a multiple of 90 minutes (the average sleep cycle length). 


For example, if you fall asleep at 11 p.m., then you’d want your alarm to be at 6:30 a.m. versus 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. This might help you feel more refreshed when you wake up, instead of hitting the snooze button over and over. 

Signs and Effects of Sleep Deprivation

A shocking number of us are sleep deprived and don’t even realize it. In fact, as many as 1 in 3 of us are not getting enough sleep and could be suffering the serious effects of sleep deprivation, which include:

 

  • Irritability

  • Weight gain

  • Fatigue

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Lowered immunity 

  • Memory issues

  • Impaired motor skills

  • Higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, and more

 

Sleep deprivation can have serious consequences for your day-to-day life and your long term health. Making sure you get quality sleep more nights than not should be a priority in your life.

How to Sleep Better

Sleeping well is easier said than done. If you struggle with getting a good night’s sleep, these tips might help you fall asleep more easily and stay asleep:

  1. Build a routine and stick to it. Try going to sleep and waking up at the same time every single day, even weekends, to regulate your sleep schedule and train your body. 
  2. Practice good sleep hygiene. Turn off electronics at least an hour before bed, make your bed a place for sleep and relaxation, keep your bedroom dark, and keep the temperature between 60-68 degrees F. 
  3. Limit caffeine and alcohol in the hours before bed.
  4. Work on becoming healthier: excess weight can lead to sleep apnea and disrupted sleep. 
  5. Decrease stress and focus on clearing your mind before bed.


Fixing bad sleep habits is no easy feat; there’s a reason why so many of us are sleep deprived. But working on your sleep patterns will not only help you feel more rested and energized day in and day out, but you’ll see a number of improvements in your relationships, health, work performance, and more. 



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