Sleep needs are almost as individual as our fingerprints and vary greatly by our age, stress level, and your lifestyle. Today we will discuss how much sleep you REALLY need, what can happen if you don’t get enough, and some things you can implement to help you ensure you get the z’s you need.
Just How Much Sleep Do I Need?
As we suggested earlier, there isn’t a specific one-size-fits-all target for sleep for adults. Generally speaking, most adults from their early 20s through about age 65 need somewhere between 7 and 9 hours of quality sleep to thrive.
Younger people need more sleep as they grow their bodies and minds – newborns sleeping nearly 60% of their day, teens needing 8-10 hours, and older individuals need slightly less at about 7 hours. But, as we said, this isn’t a steadfast, magic number that applies to everyone, all of the time.
What Are Some Other Variables That May Change How Much Sleep I Need?
Aside from age, there are several factors that can affect the amount of sleep your body needs to feel and operate at its best:
- Pregnancy: Growing a whole new person within your own is depleting work. Especially in the first trimester, pregnant women need more sleep than they would otherwise.
- Physical Activity Level: Those that lead exceptionally active lifestyles, or those looking to build muscle (not just bodybuilders) need more sleep to help with physical recovery.
- Genetics: Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco have discovered two “short sleep genes” that allow certain individuals to feel fully rested with a natural, lifelong sleep pattern of only 4 to 6 hours.
- Quality of Sleep: We’ll dive deeper into this next, but the short of it is, you can’t buy the rested feeling of a good, quality night’s sleep with pills or more hours in bed.
What Is “Sleep Quality” And What Factors Can Impact My Sleep Quality?
Sleep quality refers to how well you sleep, how long it takes you to fall asleep, and if you sleep soundly or find yourself tossing and turning, waking repeatedly through the night. A general rule of thumb is, if you fall asleep easily (within 30 minutes) and have no more than one awakening in the night, and find yourself feeling rested in the morning.
Some signs you may not be getting high quality sleep include; relying on the snooze button – feeling like you need more rest when your alarm goes off, taking what feels like forever to actually fall asleep – or waking in the night and finding yourself unable to go back to sleep, and feeling grouchy and sleepy by midday even after 8 hours of sleep.
There are many factors that could cause poor quality sleep. Some of these factors include:
- Light: Light (and darkness) signal our bodies to release specific chemicals that help us fall asleep, stay asleep, and, in the case of light – wake up.
- Chemical Influences: Caffeine and nicotine can affect your sleep long after you feel the effects wearing off. In the same vein, alcohol and sleeping pills can in fact make you feel sleepy but can result in poor quality sleep
- Pain: Obviously, if you are in a great deal of pain you won’t sleep well, but even a dull, uncomfortable ache can cause you to be restless.
- Stress: This can be a circular problem, in that you may not sleep well because of stress, and poor sleep may cause you to feel more stressed.
How Does Poor Sleep Affect Me?
Aside from the obvious “sleepy feeling” where your memory seems foggy and concentration isn’t its finest, not getting enough sleep – or not enough quality sleep – can have serious impacts on your health and wellness. Here are just a few impacts that may inspire you to work on your sleep habits:
- Weakened Immunity: Not getting enough sleep can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to illnesses like the flu and the common cold.
- High Blood Pressure: Extremely low sleep (less than 5 hours a night) can up your risk of high blood pressure.
- Weight Gain: Not enough sleep sets your body’s chemicals off balance, including those that signal hunger and fullness, which can result in overeating. This, combined with the release of stress hormones to cope with sleep deprivation, can lead to weight gain.
- Serious Mood Changes: In the short term, not getting enough sleep can make you grouchy, easily irritated and quick to anger. Chronic sleep deprivation can trigger or escalate anxiety and depression.
What Can I Do To Improve My Sleep?
There are many steps you can take to improve your sleep, including creating a solid bedtime routine, keeping light low for at least a half hour before bed, and going to bed at the same time every night. Start with the basics – limit caffeine and nicotine several hours before bedtime, ensure your room is very dark, and take a physical check of your body – aches and pain can and will keep you awake.
For individual answers to how you can improve your sleep, including nutritional help and addressing pain that may be keeping you awake, make an appointment with the doctors of South Orange Chiropractic today.