Sleep is an extremely important aspect of an all-around healthy lifestyle, and getting too few hours, or even too many hours each night, will negatively affect other areas of your waking life. Likely everyone has experienced overwhelming drowsiness when trying to complete work tasks, maybe even nodding off during a meeting, or possibly experienced the dangers of drowsy driving. Conversely, maybe you are getting too much sleep and have trouble falling or staying asleep. Whatever your situation may be, defining what is the right amount of sleep for you, your body, and your lifestyle can help you live healthier and happier.
While a standard eight hours is most commonly prescribed and discussed, there is now a suggested range of adequate sleep time. The Mayo Clinic shares a helpful table with the appropriate sleep ranges by age because as people age, the average hours of sleep needed decreases. For example, newborn babies need 14 to 17 hours of sleep each day, whereas mature adults usually only need 7 to 9 hours. The ideal sleep temperature can also range. Again, this is different for each individual, and you will probably need to do some experimenting, within reason, to determine what your ideal number is.
What If I Need More or Less Hours?
Perhaps you are thinking that you can function just fine sleeping just five or six hours every night. Or maybe you’re someone who thinks you would feel much better if only you could get those ten uninterrupted hours. As mentioned above, sleep needs can be different for different people. To discover how much you need, you can try answering the questions found at the Sleep Foundation site. These include:
- Do you drive and/or operate heavy machinery, and if so, do you feel drowsy while doing so?
- Are you exceptionally active or do you play sports?
- Do you struggle with being productive and/or happy?
- Relying on caffeine to make it through the day?
- Do you have underlying health conditions?
- Are you currently experiencing sleeping issues?
- On a day that you have limited responsibilities, do you sleep more than you would during the workweek?
After reading through these questions you may start to get a sense that you either need more or less sleep. But then what? How do you ensure you hit your magic number of hours on a nightly basis?
The National Sleep Foundation suggests using a sleep diary or downloading a sleep app. In this sleep diary, you can use the SATED method to track your sleep patterns and how you feel upon waking. SATED (Satisfaction, Alertness, Timing, Efficiency, Duration). You could also be more in-depth by writing down what time you go to bed, what time you wake up, and how you feel throughout the day, taking careful note of afternoon fatigue, crankiness, and anxiety. These feelings may indicate that you need to log some more sleep hours; this is your body’s way of asking for its much-needed sleep. Hopefully, after tracking your sleep patterns for a few weeks, you can discover more about yourself and your sleep needs.
Adjust Your Schedule
Once you determine the ideal number of sleep hours for you to feel your personal best, you may need to make changes to your routine to either go to bed earlier, or maybe even later. The smartest way to go about that is to do it gradually and commit to a regular schedule (even on the weekends). Start moving your bedtime 15 minutes either earlier or later. Then after a few nights of that new time, move the time again. With this method, you begin to acclimate yourself to feel sleepy earlier, in small increments, as opposed to getting in bed an hour earlier than usual and lying awake. The same slow adjustment can also be effective for training yourself to wake up at a certain time; slowly move your alarm clock in 15-minute increments until you reach your desired time for waking up.
Laying the groundwork for great sleep is an important part of your bedtime routine. It can help you get your ideal number of hours and ensure that you have high-quality sleep. It is important to stay rested and alert throughout the day. Some tips for a better night’s sleep are: establishing a bedtime ritual, curbing caffeine, creating a stress-free sleep zone (maybe trying some bedtime yoga to help with this), and eliminating light pollution.
After experimenting and doing some sleep journaling, implementing the above tips for quality sleep, and adjusting your bed or wake time to get your ideal number of sleep hours, your brain and body will thank you. It might feel like a lot of hard work to change your lifestyle. Maybe you feel like if you go to bed earlier you will not have enough hours in the day to accomplish everything. Remember, sleep is integral to your overall health. Similar to the hard work of getting enough exercise, the hard work you may put in figuring out your ideal sleep schedule is important work. Remember that you are worth that hard work. Get your ideal number of sleep hours because your health matters.