How Much Sleep Do I Really Need To Be Healthy?

If you want a good nights sleep, avoid taking your laptop to bed. Duh.

If you want a good nights sleep, avoid taking your laptop to bed. Duh.

That’s the big question right? What’s the ideal amount of sleep so you feel like you’re firing on all cylinders?

If you’re doing all the other stuff correctly–like eating a healthy and varied diet, and exercising regularly, and being emotionally mature so you handle the bumps of life well–how much sleep do you need so that you wake up feeling refreshed and you can maintain focus on the things that matter during the day?

The answer is, it depends. Genetics and heredity play a role, as does age. So there are differences based on the individual. However, generally speaking, the average adult needs 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep each night. The National Sleep Foundation has a handy chart of sleep requirements – check it out.

The quality of sleep as well as the quantity of sleep is important. Interestingly, experts have noted that the quality of sleep appears to be correlated with an individual’s overall health–with sleep quality is a pretty good indicator of several medical conditions. If you’re pretty healthy, you’re probably a pretty good sleeper.

Sleep in the 2000s.

Compared to a few decades ago, we get less sleep now, which is no surprise given how much we talk about the fast pace of life in today’s world. Our days haven’t gotten longer, so to squeeze in all the work, family, and other obligations, many people cut into their sleep time. We get about an hour less sleep a night than we did in the 1970s.

Gender Differences.

Let’s deal with the ladies first, because usually they’re discussed second and I’m going to mix it up. Women typically do pretty well with sleep except for two life events: pregnancy and menopause. My own personal experience is right on par. The only times in my life I’ve had trouble sleeping were when I was pregnant (that whole compressed bladder issue), and when I started getting super-sweaty hot flashes from menopause. Thank goodness for bio-identical hormone patches. Phew.

For men, sleep tends to just get progressively more difficult with age. Sorry fellas.

Signs You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep.

By now, most of us understand the symptoms of not getting enough sleep, but here they are, just in case: moodiness, low energy, not feeling sharp mentally, impaired motor skills, reduced immunity, and an inability to handle stress well. None of these are good things. A lack of good quality sleep can even effect your weight–in an upwards direction. And it puts you at increased risk for diabetes and heart disease.

So. Get Some ZZZzzzzs.

Make your bed routine is something you look forward to. Warm cozy sheets, a clean bedroom, a shower before bed, a good book (or an e-reader that isn’t backlit). Whatever it takes. Experts suggest avoiding screens within the two hours before you want to fall asleep as screens can make your brain feel awake. Experts also suggest keeping a regular sleep schedule, don’t sleep in, and try not to nap during the day if you’re having trouble falling asleep at night. They also suggest getting exercise during the day, getting your caffeine fix earlier in the day, and avoiding alcohol.

In addition, several studies have shown that massage therapy can improve sleep. And given that massage has so many other benefits, there’s no harm in trying!

Do you have any bedtime routines that help you sleep?