This post was submitted by Christine Huegel, a writer for Mattress Advisor - a leading consumer resource for sleep health and products.
Inside Scoop: How much sleep do you really need? Read on to find out.
We’ve all pulled a few all-nighters in our glory days – but we’re not care-free teens anymore, so it’s time to get serious about the important role sleep plays in our health. Sleep is a critical determinant in your mental and physical wellbeing and the truth is that most of us do not receive nearly enough of it to maintain a healthy lifestyle. In our age of streaming TV and portable technologies that provide us access to the internet, sleep deprivation has developed into an epidemic with devastating consequences.
Why is sleep important?
No matter your age, you need a good night’s sleep to maintain the bodily processes in charge of physical and cognitive functioning. While you sleep, your body is not resting – in fact, it is working overtime.
There are several parts of the brain that kick into overdrive during sleep – all of which are working to ensure that you maintain optimal health. Since there is a long list of incredible processes that occur while we sleep, we’ve highlighted a few of the showstoppers for you:
- The harmful toxins that built up in your brain during the day are washed away.
- All the information your brain acquired during the day is sorted, processed, and consolidated.
- The important information is coded into your memory banks.
- Chemical messengers, aka hormones, are released into the bloodstream to control processes like growth, development, reproduction, emotional response, and metabolism.
- Levels of the stress hormone cortisol are reduced.
- Warrior proteins called cytokines are released by your immune system to battle inflammation, infection, and trauma.
- Your muscular tissue is repaired.
What happens when we don’t get enough sleep?
The effects of sleep loss are extremely detrimental to your mental and physical health – even if it’s just a couple of hours of sleep lost each night. In fact, the risk of sleep deprivation is not only to one’s self – many national organizations like Harvard Medical and the CDC list sleep loss as a serious danger to public safety.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, a day’s worth of sleeplessness can result in similar performance as someone with a BAC of .10 – about one drink over the legal driving limit.
Whether it is from a single night or numerous days, sleep loss significantly affects mental focus and clarity and dulls our higher cognitive functioning. According to the England’s National Health Services, some of the other common side effects of sleep loss include:
- Weight gain caused by:
- Increased appetite
- Increase in cortisol and ghrelin production (the “hunger hormone”)
- Decreased metabolism
- Increased heart rate
- Long-term mood disorders, including depression and anxiety
- Decreased sex-drive
- Chronic health conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes
- Fatigue and mental fog
- Memory loss
- Compromised immune system
How much sleep do you really need?
So, what qualifies as enough sleep? In general, adults should be receiving between 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night. Thankfully, modern medicine has recognized the monumental role that sleep plays in human health – so the National Sleep Foundation recently published very specific recommendations for the amount of sleep we need:
|Age||Recommended||May be appropriate||Not recommended|
|7 to 9 hours|
10 to 11 hours
Less than 6 hours
More than 11 hours
|7 to 9 hours|
Less than 6 hours
More than 10 hours
≥ 65 years
|7 to 8 hours|
5 to 6 hours
Less than 5 hours
More than 9 hours
While many of us think that we can repay our “sleep debt” over a long weekend, the truth is that we cannot – however, that doesn’t mean it is too late to make a change for the better. If you value your mental and physical wellbeing and would like to see an improvement in your mood, mental clarity, and physical performance, make sure that you start prioritizing your sleep health ASAP. Thankfully, with just a few simple alterations to your nighttime routine, you can be on the road to a better night’s sleep as well as a healthier and happier life.
Christine Huegel is a writer for Mattress Advisor, a leading consumer resource for sleep health and products. As someone who loves to travel and spends more time on a plane than in a car, she has mastered the art of comfort and sleep from any time zone. When Christine isn’t advocating for sleep health, she writes on holistic health, wellness, and fitness.