How much sleep do you need?
When asking yourself this question, you must define “need”. To some of us, “need” would be the minimal amount of sleep required to function the next day. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society it is recommended that adults sleep at least 7 hours in order for you to get the most out of your next day (details here).
Further research reveals sleeping less than 7 hours equates to diabetes, heart disease, depression, anxiety and a not to mention the potential safety concerns (details here). Frankly, when you don’t get that 7 hours of sleep a night, you put yourself and others at risk for injury.
I am a nurse, I have worked shift work of various times around the clock. I can tell you when I worked night shift…my body and mind rebelled. I had a difficult time falling to sleep. Typically I would collapse in my bed on the second night shift, still waking up tired. My sleep was not restorative and frequently I would worry that I had missed something while on shift. I experienced anxiety for the first time, with over-the-top worry that I had done something wrong.
I was easily annoyed. Although nothing bad ever happened, I always as thought something awful was going to happen. That stress is not only unique to nurses or shift workers…but more importantly it occurs to those not reaching 7 hours of sleep.
So how much sleep do you need?
7 hours… at least.
If you are not allowing yourself at least those 7 hours of sleep then expect the next day to be difficult. If you are someone that has no problem sleeping, yet is restricting your sleep time due to other factors, it is time to re-prioritize your day.
Before you willing change things, let’s get a better understanding of how your sleep habits are working for you, by answering the following questions:
Personal Reflection of Your Health Status:
How is your overall health?
Are you taking medication on a regular basis?
Do you take medication for side effects from other medication?
Are you overweight or obese?
Do you have a difficult time losing weight?
Is your skin clear? Do you have patches, acne or rashes?
What is your mood? Are you happy, sad, nervous or unmotivated?
Are you in pain?
Are you easily annoyed or irritated?
How is your libido?
There is no scoring involved, only your personal reflection to determine how your current sleep habits are impacting your mind and body.
If you have determined that your health is negatively impacted and you get less than 7 hours of sleep a night, consider making these changes.
You can begin tonight.
Tips to Improve Your Sleep:
Schedule 7 hours of sleep each night. This is the most important tip. If you head to bed knowing that you are only able to sleep less than 7 hours…you are setting yourself up for failure.
Eliminate alcohol. Drinking alcohol may seem like such a great idea…especially to relax, but it will bite you in the middle of the night. Alcohol typically will relax you and even make you sleepy, BUT when all that sugar is digested your body wakes up. Wide-eyed awake, for several hours.
Have a regular bedtime routine. Help your body and mind to begin winding down. With consistency, you will fall asleep easier.
Reduce stimulation to your mind. Turning off your computer, smart phone and tablet actually improves your ability to fall asleep. If you read at night on a electronic device, turn the back light to dim or red. I came across this blog post on how to change the back light of my iphone, (details here). Some find adult coloring books to be relaxing.
Regular exercise is important, and a nice stroll after dinner is helpful. Vigorous exercise stimulates your endorphins which keep you awake; exercising too close to bed time is a bad idea.
Practice mediation. Start at one minute and work up to ten minutes. The more time the better. I have found that when I set my alarm to wake 15 minutes early, I am able to get up and practice 5-10 minutes of mindful mediation.
Certainly, there are times in our life when we have no control over our sleep schedule. For example: a new baby, illness and overnight travel.
Newborns are not on your sleep schedule. If you have a new baby at home, sleeping is a fragmented luxury. Good news is this does not last long…well a few months. If you have support at home with your new bundle of joy, share the night time chores, allowing each one of you to get a cluster of sleep.
Illness and side effects from medication can also cause difficulty with your sleep. If you are sick, you need to rest. Most importantly, listen to your body. If you are tired, rest…if you are hungry, eat. Do not force yourself to do something that is causing you more grief.
Jet lag is tough. I live in Japan and most of my family lives in the States. When I fly back to see them, it is painful. The airline seats are not sleep friendly, unless you can afford business class. I am not able to afford the upgrade, so I plan accordingly. I try to relax the best I can, wearing eye shades, ear plugs and change into lounge wear. All with the understanding that when I arrive at my destination, I will need to rest. The excitement of seeing my family only lasts so long…after about two hours I am exhausted.
7 Hours of Sleep
We need at least 7 hours, some may need more. If you are struggling with insomnia and have implemented these sleep tips yet still have problems with your sleep… please go and talk to your doc about your sleep.
7 Hours of Sleep…We all NEED it for good health and a happier community.