Why there’s no magic number when it comes to calculating how much shut-eye we need
When it comes to calculating how much sleep we need to take each night, it seems there may not be a magic number.
Sleep needs vary across ages and are especially impacted by lifestyle and health so to get the sleep you need, you must look at the big picture.
It’s important to pay attention to your own needs by assessing how you feel on different amounts of sleep. Are you productive and happy on seven hours of sleep? Or does it take you nine hours of quality sleep to get you moving?
Do you have health issues such as being overweight? Are you experiencing sleep problems? Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day? Do you feel sleepy when driving? These are questions that must be asked before you can find the number that works for you.
Other key factors include a person’s basal sleep need – the amount of sleep our bodies need on a regular basis for optimal performance – and sleep debt, the accumulated sleep that is lost to poor sleep habits and illness.
Two studies suggest that healthy adults have a basal sleep need of seven to eight hours every night, but where things get complicated is the interaction between the basal need and sleep debt.
You might meet your basal sleep need on any single night or a few nights in a row, but still have an unresolved sleep debt that may make you feel less alert at times.
Research has shown that sleeping too little can not only inhibit your productivity and ability to remember and consolidate information, but can also lead to serious health consequences.
For example, short sleep duration is linked with increased risk of drowsy driving; increase in body mass index; increased risk of diabetes and heart problems; increased risk for psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse; and a decreased ability to pay attention.
To pave the way for better sleep, experts recommend that you and follow these sleep tips:
- Establish consistent sleep and wake schedules, even on weekends
- Create a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath or listening to soothing music – begin an hour or more before the time you expect to fall asleep
- Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows and use your bedroom only for sleep and sex
- Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime, avoid caffeine and alcohol products close to bedtime and give up smoking.