How much sleep do you need?

How can you figure out how many hours of sleep you need? It is probably the amount of hours you get when you wake up on your own feeling refreshed and well rested, given that you have a good sleep quality; meaning, no sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, restless legs or insomnia. Vacation times are good times to figure your sleep hours: no alarms, no work restrains, and fewer responsibilities and chores to impose bed and wake times.

An average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep. Few people do great with less or more (5 or 10 hours).  According to the National Sleep Foundation, Newborns need 12-18 hours of sleep, toddlers need 12 to 14 hours of sleep whereas a teenage who is 10 to 17 years of age needs 9 hours of sleep. In general, how many hours a person needs depend on age, genetics, medical condition and how much sleep debt they accumulate over the previous days.

Let’s say you sleep 6 hours but wake up tired and groggy; now on weekends you “catch up” by getting 10 hours of sleep and feel rested. That means you are not getting enough sleep on weekdays. This insufficient sleep is common because of work and family obligations and has consequences.

Not getting the hours of sleep you ought to get has bad consequences that range from fatigue and irritability to the more serious of falling asleep in meetings or worse, during driving. Sleep deprivation is bad for your brain; it affects judgment, attention and memory not to mention your job performance. One of the worst environmental disasters, the Exon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989 was due to sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is also linked to weight gain and depression.

How do you know if you are sleep deprived

  • Make your sleep a priority. One extra hour of sleep a day can make a huge difference in your mood and performance during the day.
  • Do you wake up tired? Need to take naps or yawn during the day. If so, you need to rethink your sleep and wake times and whether you are getting the hours your body and brain need.
  • Sleep is a biological need like hunger, only sleep (like food) will satisfy the need.
  • Figure out what your body needs. Is it 7 hours, 8 or 10 hours? Do your best to reach that goal. Go to bed earlier and wake up later. Even if you lose on hours doing chores, you will more than make up for it by having more energy during the day (get stuff done faster).
  • Have good sleep habits in the late evening that is conducive to going to bed earlier: avoid TV in bed, avoid electronics 1-2 hours before bedtime including computers, listen or read relaxing material. Take a warm shower or bath in the evening. Avoid caffeine 12 hours before bedtime. Decaffeinated tea and chamomile in the evening is fine.
  • To avoid feeling sleepy especially in the afternoon, avoid a heavy or greasy lunch. Get exercise daily. Drink plenty of water. Snack on fruit instead to a candy bar or sugar soda at 4 pm. Get up from your chair and take a walk (outside if you can) or go up and down the stairs.