Everyone knows enough sleep is essential, but why do we need it, and how many hours do we really need? According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) in the US, everyone needs different amounts of sleep depending on age, lifestyle, and habits. Everything we do throughout the day affects our natural circadian rhythms or our natural sleeping and waking habits. Electronics, coffee, exercise, energy levels, etc., all contribute to why we aren’t getting enough shuteye. Let’s take get to know more about the elusive sleep that we never seem to get enough of.
Whoever said sleep is for the weak got it all wrong. Prioritizing enough sleep over ten million things you have to do in a day is not being lazy. Sleep isn’t just when your body goes on blackout mode—as your body rests, your brain continues to work in overdrive to keep your body in top condition. It preps your body for the coming day, and the quality of Zzz’s you get affects your following day’s productivity, emotional state, energy levels, and even your weight. In fact, it’s so essential that sacrificing too much sleep on a regular basis means you’re in for a major meltdown.
Most of us skimp on sleep during the busy week thinking that we can just sleep in on the weekends. However, this counterproductive—our body’s circadian rhythms are thrown off, sacrificing our quality of sleep, and may affect our ability to sleep regular hours during the week. Sleeping for longer on the weekends might mean later bedtimes during the week, making it harder to get enough sleep in time for the daily weekday grind.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends different amounts of sleep for different ages, but adults between 18-64 generally need seven to nine hours of shuteye a day. The average adult gets about five to six hours of sleep a day, which is less than the recommended amount. We might think it’s enough, but it’s not quite sufficient for our bodies, and leads to chronic sleep deprivation.
Taking short naps throughout the day and night doesn’t add up to the kind of sleep our bodies need. Our bodies go through a sleep cycle, where different levels or stages allow our bodies to gradually get the rest and recovery it needs. Our bodies need a few hours to get into the deep sleep mode, which is when we get the much-needed reboot. If we don’t give our bodies enough time, we end up waking up feeling tired, sluggish, and lacking the rest we thought we were getting from snatches of rest.
Many factors affect our ability to get sufficient sleep. Aside from budgeting our days wisely and allowing ourselves sufficient sleeping time, we can do little tweaks to our nighttime routines to ensure good quality sleep. Don’t drink caffeine at least 8 hours before you intend to sleep, and avoid alcohol and excessive sugar intake at night. Shut off electronic devices an hour before you mean to sleep, and use the time to detox from the day’s activities. You’ll wake up all the better for it.
Studies have found that people who are regularly sleep deprived are at a bigger risk for heart problems and high blood pressure, plus it raises your risk of being overweight and obese, depressed, and getting into car accidents. So do yourself a favor, and don’t ditch those much-needed hours of shuteye.