How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?
We’re told different things by different people every day about all aspects of our lives - how much sugar we should eat, how many miles we should walk, how much water we should drink and how much sleep we should be getting. The problem is the figures seem to change all the time and so it can be difficult to know who’s right or what is right for you. Because the truth is we’re all different and we all have different needs based on our lifestyle and genetics, so what works for some might not work for you. However, it can definitely be said that getting enough sleep is crucial to overall health and happiness.
Why sleep is important?
Sleep is one of the core requirements for normal functioning. It’s what allows us to recharge, recover, process and help to stave off illness and disease. When we don’t get enough sleep our brain doesn’t function properly which means not only are you less able to think and analyze properly, but your brain is also less capable of sending the right signals to other parts of your body which can lead to slower reactions and an inability to fire off the right processes.
It is recommended that adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night and teenagers and children require more than this due to the body being in a state of growth. As humans, we function on what is called the circadian rhythm, this rhythm is what tells us when we’re feeling awake or tired and runs on the same time period as the 24-hour day. Living in sync with this rhythm, getting up when it’s light and going to sleep when it’s dark, is what will really help you to ensure you’re getting enough sleep and honoring your body clock.
Interestingly, people can become accustomed to not getting enough sleep and get used to the way their body feels whilst not being rested enough. This sort of chronic sleep deprivation is what can lead to more serious health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart-related issues. If you are regularly getting less sleep than needed, in general, this would be more than 3 occurrences of lack of sleep over a 3 month period, then it’s worth looking into remedies to help you heal this cycle.
So, how much sleep do you really need? According to many sources, including Mayo Clinic, the amount of sleep we need is as such:
- School-age children (6 to 13 years): 9 to 11 hours of sleep
- Teenagers (14 to 17 years): 8 to 10 hours of sleep
- Young adults (18 to 25 years): 7 to 9 hours of sleep
- Adults (26 to 64 years): 7 to 9 hours of sleep
- Older adults (65 years or older): 7 to 8 hours of sleep
As mentioned, some people do find that they function better on more or less sleep, and it is a general rule of thumb that women tend to need more sleep than men. As you grow up, you’ll become more aware of how you’re feeling on the amount of sleep you get and I urge you to start taking note of your mood, your energy levels and your overall feeling of wellness each day, so you can start to correlate the two and figure out your ultimate level of required sleep.
The quality of sleep matters.
It’s not just about how much sleep you’re getting, but how well you’re sleeping too. If you’re often disturbed, tossing and turning and generally sleeping lightly, then no matter how long you sleep, you’re still not going to feel rested. The aim is to get good, deep sleep. The aim is to get into what is called slow-wave sleep which is a prominent feature of Non-REM sleep. This is the stage of sleep that is the hardest to wake people from and is when your body will be doing the most intensive recovery work. Interestingly, as you get older you tend to sleep less, so it’s no surprise that the body tends to break down as you age, as you don’t spend as much time in the crucial reparative stages of sleep.
On average, it is thought that people wake up 6 times per night but only fleetingly. If you find that you are regularly waking up for periods of more than 15-20 minutes, then you may be suffering from insomnia and may need to look at more intensive solutions to help with this.
How to improve your sleep
If you’re struggling to get enough sleep then there are lots of things you can do to help ease yourself into a more restful night. I know how difficult it can be when feeling anxious or worried about certain things that are going on in your life, my wonderful community often comes to my videos to help lull them into relaxation so they can sleep better, and with some intentional steps, you can make some powerful changes to your sleep quality too.
These are great because they can help to track how long you’re sleeping and in which stages of the sleep cycle you are in. Not all sleep is equal - when you’re in deep sleep is when your body will be able to repair itself and allow you to truly feel rested, if however, you’re only sleeping lightly you’re much more likely to wake up feeling groggy and in need of your caffeine fix straight away.
Using a sleep app will help you to manage this better and a lot of them also come with a recording feature that can be funny to listen back to if you’re a sleep-talker!
Creating a super cozy space.
I’ve spoken about this in a previous post here and it’s something that can really help if you struggle with sleeping. People can often underestimate the impact that a cluttered or messy room can have on your ability to feel rested, so it’s worth having a little tidy up in the evening before bed so that you aren’t surrounded by lots of ‘stuff’. Mood lighting, soft blankets and the right pillows all make a huge difference and you can check out all of the great products I have here that can help with this.
Alcohol can drastically affect the quality of sleep you get and so if you find that you’re often tired and groggy and have been drinking a few glasses of alcohol, then it’s not a coincidence. Everything in moderation, but make sure to be aware that even if you sleep the whole way through the night after drinking, the quality of the rest will not have been as good as can be. When you have alcohol in your system your body will be focusing on trying to negate the negative effects of it, rather than the important processes of repair and deep rest.
Monitor your sleep with a notebook.
As mentioned, it’s a great idea to record how you feel each day and correlate this with how well you slept and for how long the night before. The more you can do this, the more you will start to learn about what works for you and how much sleep you need. It is possible to get too much sleep, so next time you have a long lie-in, take note of how you feel and whether or not you feel more rested.
As always, it’s all about listening to your body and what it’s telling you. We can often disregard the physical things we’re feeling, instead of trusting our mind to tell us what’s right or wrong, but more and more people are learning more about the incredible messages we are constantly receiving through our physical body. Use your intuition to guide you and do some testing to see what works for you. I’d love to know how long you love to sleep and whether you’re a night owl or an early bird. Let me know in the comments below.
*Read about the 5 most important benefits of getting a good nights sleep here